A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants: A Memoir

Paperback | January 8, 2008

byJaed Coffin

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Six years ago at the age of twenty-one, Jaed Muncharoen Coffin, a half-Thai American man, left New England's privileged Middlebury College to be ordained as a Buddhist monk in his mother's native village of Panomsarakram--thus fulfilling a familial obligation. While addressing the notions of displacement, ethnic identity, and cultural belonging, A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants chronicles his time at the temple that rain season--receiving alms in the streets in saffron robes; bathing in the canals; learning to meditate in a mountaintop hut; and falling in love with Lek, a beautiful Thai woman who comes to represent the life he can have if he stays. Part armchair travel, part coming-of-age story, this debut work transcends the memoir genre and ushers in a brave new voice in American nonfiction.

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Six years ago at the age of twenty-one, Jaed Muncharoen Coffin, a half-Thai American man, left New England's privileged Middlebury College to be ordained as a Buddhist monk in his mother's native village of Panomsarakram--thus fulfilling a familial obligation. While addressing the notions of displacement, ethnic identity, and cultural ...

Jaed Coffin holds a B.A. in philosophy from Middlebury College and an M.F.A. from the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast Writing Program. A boxer, sea-kayaker, and lobster fisherman, he lives in Brunswick, Maine.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.68 inPublished:January 8, 2008Publisher:Da Capo BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0306815265

ISBN - 13:9780306815263

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Tricycle “It’s worth reading this book twice. Once for the story—absorbing and, at times, amusing—and once more for the poetry: crystalline observations of people and place that float alongside the narrative. What could have been a simple coming-of-age tale is, in Coffin’s hands, a wry, at times lyrical commentary on cultural identity and Buddhist practice.”Asians in America “Jaed Coffin’s memoir A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants is both honest and heartfelt that the reader cannot help but be absorbed into the narrator's world by his lyrical words…A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants is a book that Asian Americans and non-Asian Americans alike will genuinely enjoy reading. It will inspire others to do what Coffin has done: to find who they are and not fear what they may discover in their journey.”Multicultural Review, Fall 08 “Plain-spoken but lively, unflowery prose that at times recalls one of [Coffin’s] ‘literary idols,’ Ernest Hemingway…Packed with fascinating detail and a kind of melancholy beauty.”Reference & Research Book News, 02/09 “Coffin vividly recalls his sense of displacement and struggles with his ethnic identity…Coffin brings his American sensibilities and Thai heritage together in an account that is witty and deeply appreciative of both his heritages.”Kliatt “A colorful account of [Coffin’s] experience…This story will have a lot of appeal for older YAs and adults who are interested in religious experiences and journeying to discover more about oneself.”Portland Monthly Magazine, November 2008 “Ernest Hemingway and Jack London would envy this talented memoirist’s travels.”You Probably Shouldn’t Read This, 4/11/09 “Evokes Thailand in a strong, compassionate way…Coffin’s writing is fluid and evocative.”Spynotes, 4/12/09 “The writing is truly excellent—shimmering descriptions couched in spare, efficient prose.” International Review, 12/2/2009 “Coffin’s descriptions of life in Thailand as a monk are intriguing…[His] writing is blunt and honest.”