About the Author
Camron Wright was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a master’s degree in Writing and Public Relations from Westminster College. He has owned several successful retail stores, in addition to working with his wife in the fashion industry, designing for the McCall Pattern Company in New York. He currently works in public relations, marketing and design. Camron began writing to get out of attending MBA School at the time and it proved the better decision. Letters for Emily was a “Readers Choice” award winner, as well as a selection of the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild. In addition to North America, Letters for Emily was published in several foreign countries. Camron lives with his wife, Alicyn, in Utah, just south of Salt Lake City, at the base of the Wasatch mountains. He is the proud father of four children.
The Rent Collector is the story of a young mother, Sang Ly, struggling to survive by picking through garbage in Cambodia’s largest municipal dump. Under threat of eviction by an embittered old drunk who is charged with collecting rents from the poor of Stung Meanchey, Sang Ly embarks on a desperate journey to save her ailings on from a life of ignorance and poverty. It’s a tale of discovery and redemption in which she learns that literature, like hope, is found in the most unexpected places.
Camron Wright, what inspired you to write about people who live in a dump in Cambodia?
I first began building the story in my head after my son, a film major, spent time at the Stung Meanchey dump in Cambodia, filming a documentary that followed Sang Ly on her journey.
As a character, I find Sang Ly to be mesmerizing. In truth, after watching my son’s footage, I couldn’t get her out of my head. That said, I also struggled with how to put her character on paper—and so she, Sang Ly the character, became a burden. It was like she was always there whispering for me to write something, but every time I tried, the story went nowhere.
Then two years ago…[Read More]
Sopeap’s Book: Love Forever
Poem by Joni Buehner
If I were the trees…
I would turn my leaves to gold and scatter them toward the sky so they would circle about your head and fall in piles at your feet, so you might wonder.
If I were the mountains…
I would crumble down and lift you up so you could see all of my secret places, where the rivers flow and the animals run wild, so you might know freedom.
If I were the ocean…
I would raise you onto my gentle waves and carry you across the seas to swim with the whales and the dolphins in the moonlit waters, so you might know peace.
If I were the stars…
I would sparkle like never before and fall from the sky as gentle rain, so that you would always look towards heaven and know that you can reach the stars.
If I were the moon…
I would scoop you up and sail you through the sky and show you the Earth below in all its wonder and beauty, so you might know that all the Earth is at your command.
If I were the sun…
I would warm and glow like never before and light the sky with orange and pink, so you would gaze upward and always know the glory of heaven.
But I am me…
And since I am the one who loves you, I will wrap you in my arms and kiss you and love you with all of my heart.
And this I will do until…
The mountains crumble down, and the oceans dry up, and the stars fall from the sky, and the sun and the moon burn out.
And that is forever love.
Pronunciations for several frequently used names and places inThe Rent Collector.
Select a few of these questions written by the author with the intent to generate opinion and discussion.
1. In the opening pages of The Rent Collector, Sang Ly’s grandfather promises that it will be a very lucky day. What role do you think luck plays in our lives? How does the idea of luck reconcile with the novel’s epigraph, the quote from Buddha on the opening page? [Video comments from the author]
2. After reading Sarann (the Cambodian Cinderella), Sopeap and Sang Ly discuss how story plots repeat, reinforcing the same lessons. Sopeap calls resurfacing plots “perplexing” and then asks, “Is our DNA to blame for this inherent desire to hope? Is it simply another survival mechanism? Is that why we love Sarann or Cinderella? Or is there more to it?” How would you answer? What are possible explanations for the phenomenon? [Video comments from the author]
3. Sang Ly says that living at the dump is a life where “the hope of tomorrow is traded to satisfy the hunger of today.” How might this statement also apply to those with modern homes, late-model cars, plentiful food, and general material abundance? [Video comments from the author]
4. Sang Ly mentions that Lucky Fat has an “uncanny knack of finding money lost amongst the garbage.” Do you suppose someone may have been helping him by placing money for him to find? If so, who? [Video comments from the author]
5. Speaking of her clock, Sang Ly says, “Sometimes broken things deserve to be repaired.” What might she be referring to more than the clock? [Video comments from the author]
6. The shelters at Stung Meanchey are built to protect the resting pickers from the sun. What other purposes do they serve? What “shelters” do we build in our own lives? How would you react if the “shelters” in your life were constantly being torn down? [Video comments from the author]
7. At first, Ki is reluctant to welcome change, specifically to see Sang Ly learn to read. He says, “I know that we don’t have a lot here, but at least we know where we stand.” What do you think he means? When have you found it hard to accept change? [Video comments from the author]
8. Sopeap tells Sang Ly: “To understand literature, you read it with your head, but you interpret it with your heart. The two are forced to work together—and, quite frankly, they often don’t get along.” Do you agree? Can you think of examples? [Video comments from the author]
9. Koah Kchol, or scraping, is an ancient remedy Sang Ly says has been practiced in her family for generations. Do you have your own family remedies that have been passed down? What are they, and do they work? [Video comments from the author]
10. Sang Ly and Sopeap discuss dreams. Have you ever had a dream that changed your attitude, decisions, or outlook? Was it a subconscious occurrence or something more? [Video comments from the author]
11. In a moment of reflection, Sang Ly admits that she doesn’t mean to be a skeptic, to lack hope, or to harbor fear. However, she notes that experience has been her diligent teacher. She asks, “Grandfather, where is the balance between humbly accepting our life’s trials and pleading toward heaven for help, begging for a better tomorrow?” How would you answer her question? [Video comments from the author]
12. Sang Ly speaks often to her deceased grandfather, but not to her father, until after her meeting with the Healer. Why did her attitude change? How might the same principle apply to relationships in our own lives? [Video comments from the author]
13. Sopeap always wears thick brown socks, no matter the weather. As Sopeap lies dying, Sang Ly notices that the socks have slipped, exposing scars on Sopeap’s ankles. How would you presume Sopeap got these scars? How might Sopeap’s scars (or rather their source) have influenced her appreciation for the story of the rising Phoenix? In what ways does Sopeap rise from her own ashes, literally and figuratively? [Video comments from the author]
14. The story ends with Sang Ly retelling the myth of Vadavamukha and the coming of Sopeap to Stung Meanchey. By the time you reached the final version in the book’s closing pages, had you remembered the original version in the book’s opening pages? How had the myth changed? How had Sopeap changed? How had Sang Ly changed? [Video comments from the author]
15. When the story closes, Sang Ly and her family are still living at Stung Meanchey. Are you satisfied with the ending, that they remain at the dump? Why or why not? [Video comments from the author]
1. Lucky Fat is generally cheerful. In fact, most of the people who actually work and live at Stung Meanchey are happy, despite the fact they are only “earning enough money to buy food on the very day they eat it.” If you had to move to the dump today, could you be happy in your circumstance? Explain why or why not.
2. Sopeap warns Sang Ly: “Life at the dump has limitations, but it serves a plate of predictability. Stung Meanchey offers boundaries. There are dangers, but they are understood, accepted, and managed. When we step out of that world, we enter an area of unknown.” What boundaries do we accept or create for ourselves? In reply, Sang Ly says, “I’m just talking about literature.” Sopeap responds, “And so am I.” What do you suppose Sopeap is trying to imply? What might literature represent?
3. When returning from the province, Sang Ly declares, “Home. I let the word ring in my head. Stung Meanchey—a dirty, smelly, despicable place where our only possessions can be carried in two hands. ‘Yes,’ I confirm, ‘we are home.’” Contrast this with her declaration that for Sopeap, “the dump was never her home—no matter how hard she tried to make it so.” Why the difference? Where is home for you and why?
4. Sopeap’s last name is Sin. Do you think this was intentional by the author? If so, what are the implications and what parallels might be drawn?
5. Sitting beside Sopeap on the garden roof, Sang Ly says, “As the clouds close in, an evening rain begins to fall. The drops are large, like elephant tears, and as they smack the floor, they break into tiny beads that dance and play across the tiles.” How is the rain symbolic? What other symbolism did you notice?