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The rent collector : a novel
2012
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Summary
Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not really working. Just when things seem most bleak, Sang Ly learns a secret about the hated, ill-tempered woman, the "the rent collector"-she can read! Reluctantly she agrees to teach Sang Ly and does so with the same harshness she applied to her collection duties until they both learn how literacy has the power to instill hope and transcend circumstance.

Based on a true story, set in the abject poverty of Cambodia against the backdrop of political oppression and the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge.
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Booklist Review
Working as pickers, Sang Ly and her husband, Ki Lim, earn their living by sifting through the trash at Stung Meanchey, Cambodia's large city dump. Desperately poor, they live with their sickly baby boy in a one-room hut on a small piece of land that they rent from the cantankerous Rent Collector. Everything changes when one day Sang Ly discovers the Rent Collector's secret: she can read. Determined to give her son a better life, Sang Ly convinces the Rent Collector to teach her how to read. An unlikely friendship blossoms between the two women, and Sang Ly learns that the Rent Collector's gruff exterior hides unspeakable personal tragedies and a life shattered by the Khmer Rouge. Undergirding Sang Ly's literary journey is the support and care of the Stung Meanchey community, illustrating how beauty can be found in even the ugliest of places. Drawn from the real lives of the residents of Stung Meanchey, this is a beautifully told story about the perseverance of the human spirit and the importance of standing up for what is right.--Gaus, Eve Copyright 2010 Booklist
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