Ira Sukrungruang Comes to Maine

categories: Cocktail Hour / Table For Two: Interviews


Ira Sukrungruang, Buddhist Boy

I had nothing to do with it–in fact, Ira was invited by my friend Jeff Thomson at the University of Maine at Farmington, but here he came for an evening reading, just last night.  I took advantage of his presence to have him for a quick visit here at my house yesterday afternoon, and lucked into a dinner invitation with UMF faculty.  I left UMF in 1995 to go to Ohio State.  Ira turned up late in my tenure there, a student in the graduate writing program, and I had the pleasure of working with him just before I left that job (always moving on, our Bill).  He had great mentors after that in Stephen Kuusisto and Lee Martin, but I of course take credit for all his success.  Kidding.  But there it is a special pride and pleasure when a former student becomes a friend and his (or her) books land on your shelf, wonderful.  Ira is the author of Talk Thai: The Adventures of Buddhist Boy, a funny, affecting book about first generation immigration.

Ira the way I remember him

At my house Ira and I talked about Ohio State days a little and about all the projects we’re working and generally caught up while my dog, Baila, snuggled and nipped and moaned and repeatedly shook hands and slathered Ira with kisses, Ira, who has had goldens himself, and took the attention in perfect calm stride.  Ira’s  book in progress is called Buddhist Dog.

Ira teaches in the writing program at the University of South Florida, a great job, it sounds like.  Last night at his reading he explained that he’s been teaching all the various forms and genres and sub-genres of nonfiction for years, and decided to try his hand at all of them.  Nature writing didn’t seem like one that would come naturally–Ira’s a city creature–but with a wife devoted to the outdoors, he’s spent a lot of time in nature.  So that’s what he read, a nature essay, by turns harrowing, lyrical, funny, and deep.  What interested me was his thought that for the Asian immigrant, the American woods is another foreign territory, another place he’s just trying to fit in.

We’ll have to have him for a guest post soon.


  1. Richard Gilbert writes:

    It’s nice to see you feature Ira, Bill. I taught Talk Thai last year, and the class and I enjoyed it—the kids really liked his humor. So many memoirs are so dark, and college freshmen tend to appreciate a humorous outlook. Some chose to write their memoir analyses on Talk Thai, often kids whose own lives growing up had been disordered in some way but who had an irrepressible humor about it that I admired.

    I reviewed Talk Thai on my blog, and then did an interview with Ira:

    • Bill writes:

      That’s a great interview, Richard. Recommended reading, as is every edition of your blog!