First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers School & Library Binding – Jan 2001
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Written in the present tense, First They Killed My Father will put you right in the midst of the action--action you'll wish had never happened. It's a tough read, but definitely a worthwhile one, and the author's personality and strength shine through on every page. Covering the years from 1975 to 1979, the story moves from the deaths of multiple family members to the forced separation of the survivors, leading ultimately to the reuniting of much of the family, followed by marriages and immigrations. The brutality seems unending--beatings, starvation, attempted rape, mental cruelty--and yet the narrator (a young girl) never stops fighting for escape and survival. Sad and courageous, her life and the lives of her young siblings provide quite a powerful example of how war can so deeply affect children--especially a war in which they are trained to be an integral part of the armed forces. For anyone interested in Cambodia's recent history, this book shares a valuable personal view of events. --Jill Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In 1975, Ung, now the national spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine-Free World, was the five-year-old child of a large, affluent family living in Phnom Penh, the cosmopolitan Cambodian capital. As extraordinarily well-educated Chinese-Cambodians, with the father a government agent, her family was in great danger when the Khmer Rouge took over the country and throughout Pol Pot's barbaric regime. Her parents' strength and her father's knowledge of Khmer Rouge ideology enabled the family to survive together for a while, posing as illiterate peasants, moving first between villages, and then from one work camp to another. The father was honest with the children, explaining dangers and how to avoid them, and this, along with clear sight, intelligence and the pragmatism of a young child, helped Ung to survive the war. Her restrained, unsentimental account of the four years she spent surviving the regime before escaping with a brother to Thailand and eventually the United States is astonishing--not just because of the tragedies, but also because of the immense love for her family that Ung holds onto, no matter how she is brutalized. She describes the physical devastation she is surrounded by but always returns to her memories and hopes for those she loves. Her joyful memories of life in Phnom Penh are close even as she is being trained as a child soldier, and as, one after another, both parents and two of her six siblings are murdered in the camps. Skillfully constructed, this account also stands as an eyewitness history of the period, because as a child Ung was so aware of her surroundings, and because as an adult writer she adds details to clarify the family's moves and separations. Twenty-five years after the rise of the Khmer Rouge, this powerful account is a triumph. 8 pages b&w photos.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Phnom Penh city wakes early to take advantage of the cool morning breeze before the sun breaks through the haze and invades the country with sweltering heat. Read the first page
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The numbers are something like 2,000,000 million dead or 1/5th of the Cambodian population.......too much for the brain to comprehend. We want to believe that genocide and mass tragedy in far away lands happen to a people that are used to hardship and therefore feel less pain. Loung's book rips away the false sense of comfort and exposes the horror we desperately want not to believe.
Loung's way is perhaps the best way to relate this story. A child does not know politics or history. It only knows that mommy was here and now she is dead. Death is death, hunger is hunger and the reasons matter little to a 5 year old girl. Loung does not tell the reader why she is starving or why her father is killed, becuase as a child she has no idea.
Pol Pot died a free man in China a few years ago. What did he think of the consequences of his failed political experiment? We may never know and this book does not have the answer. It is a tale of a tragedy through the eyes of innocence.
I highly recommend this book to adults and children. For children I also recommend 'The Road From Home' by David Kherdian....a tale of the Armenian genocide.
Ungï¿½s story chronicles her young life as a child during war, when the Khmer Rouge took over the Cambodian government and decided to create its own society. The story begins in the 1975 comfortable setting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where Ungï¿½s family lived through the turbulent evacuation from her home, separation and loss of her family, the struggle for survival and the reality of genocide.
I would highly recommend this book. It was easy to read, follow and understand. The book was not only educational, but also personal. The authentic family photographs in the middle of the book gave the me faces to go along with Ungï¿½s incredible story. This was very interesting to me. The epilogue was also worthwhile. It gave closure to the story and let the reader know what happened to the surviving family members.
There is only one thing that this book left out of its coverage, and I wonder if it would help explain the "pigmentocracy" Ung discusses at various points in her book (e.g., being spit at/generally mistreated because she has light skin). In many Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia--and to some extent Cambodia as well--ethnic Chinese are an economically dominant minority. A few ethnic Chinese are much better off than legions of ethnic Khmer (/Thai/Indonesian/Malay/etc.), and often Chinese in such countries opt out of the national culture, choosing to retain Chinese traditions. Ung herself points out that her grandmother, who lived in Cambodia, never learned Khmer. Therefore, many Khmer would have had a deep dissatisfaction with Khmer/Chinese relative positions in society, and would have taken every advantage of the downfall of any ethnic Chinese in Cambodia by mistreating them the way Ung was mistreated. I think Ung should have included a foreword about this situation so that the reader could better understand the context in which the abuse based on her skin tone occurred.
Ung's story chronicles her young life as a child during war, when the Khmer Rouge took over the Cambodian government and decided to create its own society. The story begins in the 1975 comfortable setting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where Ung's family lived through the turbulent evacuation from her home, separation and loss of her family, the struggle for survival and the reality of genocide.
I would highly recommend this book. It was easy to read, follow and understand. The book was not only educational, but also personal. The authentic family photographs in the middle of the book gave the me faces to go along with Ung's incredible story. This was very interesting to me. The epilogue was also worthwhile. It gave closure to the story and let the reader know what happened to the surviving family members.
Most recent customer reviews
A painful but important read. Not without flaws but carries such an emotional punch as to nearly totally overwhelm them. Read morePublished 2 days ago by Amazon Customer
Fantastic read, so real and inspiring! and everyone is selling this book in Cambodia...they are so proud of the author. I saw it many times on my recent trip to Siem Reap. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Alysha Savji
Gripping and tragic tale of how a government can change power and sends its people into destitution making family go against family in a chess game that ultimately no one would... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Kylie Miller
After spending time in Cambodia a few years ago I had to re read this haunting story from a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide.Published 17 months ago by Ashley Pharazyn
Once you start reading you're unable to put it down. It illustrates the strength of the human spirit and it's capacity to preservere under the most brutal conditions. Read morePublished on May 28 2013 by Kendal chin-yick
This is an absolutely wonderful book. I wish that I hadn't read it yet so I could go back and read it again for the first time. Read morePublished on May 3 2004
As I'm now travelling in the Southeast Asia I would want to read some books about this area. I found Ms Luong Ung's book in a bookstore in Nha Trang of Vietnam (original copy!). Read morePublished on March 10 2004 by Pazu Kong
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