Kimarlee Nguyen, Teacher from UFT
* The Brooklyn Latin School
Kimarlee Nguyen taught English for six years at The Brooklyn Latin School, reveling in the environment of the academically rigorous specialized public high school with a diverse student body. She shared her joy of reading and writing literature with her students, many of whom were, like Kimarlee, first-generation Americans.
Kimarlee started her teaching career at Bushwick Leader’s HS, where she taught for five years.
Although just 33 years of age, Kimarlee was already a well-respected writer and had been published in many journals. She was one of three fiction writers to win a place in the first Mentorship Lab of the national nonprofit Kundiman, dedicated to nurturing generations of writers and readers of Asian American literature. “Kimarlee was a brilliant, unforgettable writer we are devastated to lose,” Kundiman posted on its website.
Kimarlee wrote about the adversity her parents experienced under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and their life in a refugee camp in Thailand before coming to the United States, among other topics.
She mentored her students with humor, attention and a deep respect, encouraging them to discover their own inner voice.
Here is an example of her work, titled “The Ear of the Sky,” published in Hyphen Magazine:
“Underneath the blanket, bouncing off the window, her words crawl up my arm and circle his bowed head. She speaks in Pali, the old language. I can’t follow along, but the words bring with them the heat of summer, the smell of incense and the saffron robes the monks wore, all gathered in a line.”
Kimarlee earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Vassar College and a master of fine arts degree from Long Island University. She had numerous fellowships and residencies and was at work on a novel, “Lion’s Tooth,” about a Cambodian-American family living in Cambridge, Mass.
Kimarlee is survived by her father Hai Nguyen, her mother Vy Yeng and her brother Steven Nguyen.