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After turbulent upbringing, Mainer writes of learning 'to live with grace and empathy'

Being gay and Asian-American, Marpheen Chann felt like an alien on two levels. His new memoir is titled "Moon in Full: A Modern-Day Coming-of-Age Story."

PORTLAND, Maine — Marpheen Chann, a second-generation Cambodian-American born in California and raised there for the first five years of his life, arrived in Maine in 1997 after a cross-country trip spent on a mattress in the back of a rented truck. 

“All I remember is the inside walls of the U-Haul,” he wrote in his new memoir, ''although a few stops were made along the way for bathroom breaks and some fresh air."

Coming to Maine marked a new chapter in what would be a turbulent upbringing. When Chann’s mother was unable to provide the care he and his siblings needed, the state intervened. He was eight years old. 

“I got home from school,” he recalled, “and the caseworker there handed us black garbage bags and said, ‘Hey, pack up the belongings you care about. We’re going to take you somewhere for a little while.'”

At the end of 207, Marpheen sat at the piano to play an original composition. Here is that portion of the show:

Eventually, Chann left the foster care system and, along with his siblings, was adopted by a family in Naples. He was grateful for their love and caring, and for a while he was happy. But as a teenager, Chann realized that he was gay—and in the eyes of his adopted family, who held deeply conservative Christian beliefs, homosexuality was a sin.

Conflict is the essence of drama, and Chann, who is 31, has led a dramatic life. Looking back on it now as a gay man, a lawyer, and an activist, he writes with remarkable compassion about an often traumatic past and seeks “to forgive, to live with grace and empathy…to help ease the pain and suffering of the world.”

Perhaps Chann’s grace and forgiveness are not surprising. His middle name is Sotear. In his mother’s native Khmer language, the word means “compassion.”

You can learn more about Marpheen Chann here

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