First, thanks to Nor Sanavongsa for letting me use his outstanding drawing of Obama Laosified. Nor is an amazing artist who illustrates and writes books, his last being a book on Xiang Mieng stories.
Now to our press release!
First Presidential Visit to Laos Links to Local Historians
During the first US presidential visit to the Southeast Asian nation of Laos, President Obama mentioned the ancient Lao legend of “Sinxay”. Thanks to the work of a local librarian and his Laotian wife, this literary masterpiece is discovering new life in America with its first English language translation.
Sacramento, CA: Over the past half century, US relations in Southeast Asia have been complicated at best and violent at worst. On September 5, 2016, President Obama became the first US president to visit Laos to begin forging new ties. He also made an unexpected, but well-received, reference to Laotian culture saying “In literature, like the epic of Sinxay, we see the values that define the people of Laos such as compassion, resilience and hope.”
Sinxay? As it happens, local Sacramento librarian Peter Whittlesey and his Laotian wife Baythong have devoted the last ten years to creating the first English translation of this literary masterpiece. “Our goal in translating the epic of Sinxay is to provide a positive catalyst to help all English readers better understand Buddhism, and the roots of the Laotian and Northeastern Thai cultures,” Whittlesey related. The lavishly illustrated book—recently available as “Sinxay: Renaissance of a Lao-Thai Epic Hero”—is already garnering critical praise:
“The exploits of Sinxay and his brothers exemplify the…bodhisattva practice throughout the ages: emphasizing, in particular, generosity (dana), morality (sila), and heroic effort (virya). In this masterful translation of the epic, the authors bring this transformational story to life in vivid and lurid prose.”
Dr. Ellison Findly, Department Chair for Religious Studies
Trinity College in Hartford, CT.
“The mythical Lao culture hero Sinxay is vividly brought to life in this new publication…The book emphasizes the moral and ethical principles which underlay an ancient poem once faithfully recited in temples throughout Laos and northeast Thailand at crucial festivals and life crisis rites. Sinxay also brings the importance and relevance of the story directly into the modern world with analysis of contemporary textile design, Buddhist temple decoration, and contemporary interpretation of a key culture hero.”
Dr. Eric Crystal, Vice-Chair, Center for Southeast Asia Studies
U.C. Berkeley (Ret.)
“What makes this book an especially lively and timely contribution are the fabulous illustrations. The photos by the authors and the paintings by several artists are outstanding, and they enhance the graceful and animated story that the authors have carefully crafted. A must read for anyone interested in Southeast Asian literature.”
Author and Thailand historian, Chris Baker
The husband and wife team have always supported Lao artists through Laos Essential Artistry, with a focus on Lao weavers. In addition to his work as a high school librarian and independent researcher; Peter is an award-winning photographer whose photos of Laos have been published in numerous books, magazines, and websites. Baythong grew up in Laos hearing and memorizing the story of Sinxay as told to her by her grandmother and village elders.
A wealth of free information about Sinxay is available at www.sinxay.com. The book is available for purchase on Amazon.
Contact: Peter Whittlesey – Sinxay Press