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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers [School & Library Binding]

Loung Ung
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 2001 0613338960 978-0613338967

Until the age of five, Loung Ung lived in Phnom Penh, one of seven children of a high-ranking government official.She was a precocious child who loved the open city markets, fried crickets, chicken fights, and sassing her parents.When Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into Phnom Penh in April 1975, Ung's family was forced to flee their home and hide their previous life of privilege.Eventually, they dispersed in order to survive. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans while her other siblings were sent to labor camps.Only after the Vietnamese destroyed the Khmer Rouge were Loung and her surviving siblings slowly reunited.

Bolstered by the shocking bravery of one brother and sustained by her sister's gentle kindness amid brutality, Loung forged ahead to create a courageous new life.Harrowing yet hopeful, insightful and compelling, this family's story is truly unforgettable.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The story initiates with Loung Ung's memories of her semi-privileged childhood in Phnom phen. She goes on to describe the forced evacuation of the city by the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent placement of her family in an agricultural commune. The story is dominated by tales of starvation and death, but the reader is granted a reprieve when, after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Loung immigrates to the US as a refugee.
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quick read with maximum impact April 24 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Ung writes with an eminently readable style. She covers events as they occurred, through her own eyes as a child. This means that the events are much more poignant, but a reader not familiar with recent Cambodian history will probably need an additional book to figure out what the wider political events actually were. For a reader unfamiliar with the atrocities committed by Third World authoritarian governments, this book, I'm sure, will be more more shocking and sad than for a reader well-versed in recent Southeast Asian politics.
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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars First They Killed My Father March 22 2003
Format:Paperback
First They Killed My Father is a true story told through the eyes of the author, Loung Ung. This is a story of horror, survival, hope and family love. The author shows her strength and courage on every page of the book and introduces her family to the reader so much that you feel like you know them.
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars First They Killed My Father March 18 2003
Format:Paperback
First They Killed My Father is a true story told through the eyes of the author, Loung Ung. This is a story of horror, survival, hope and family love. The author shows her strength and courage on every page of the book and introduces her family to the reader so much that you feel like you know them.
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A definite good read.
Great book.
Published 2 days ago by Amber Clarke
5.0 out of 5 stars After spending time in Cambodia a few years ago I ...
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 15 days ago by Ashley Pharazyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Captivating
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 more
Published 16 months ago by Kendal chin-yick
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be a required read...
I first read this book many years ago. It left such an imprint I have told many people about it over the years. I bought the book and lent it out. Read more
Published on June 24 2011 by northerngal
5.0 out of 5 stars My new favorite book
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 more
Published on May 3 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Moved me so much on the human spirit
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 more
Published on March 10 2004 by Pazu Kong
5.0 out of 5 stars First They Killed My Father
This book written by Loung Ung is one of the most facinating books I've ever read. It made me feel ignorant not knowing about any of this happening just 30 years ago. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars You must read this book
This book is a must read for anyone. Period. If you are even considering this book, I urge you to read it. It will change you. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2004 by H. Lindsey
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read
Long Ung's book stays with you long after you put it down. The horror of the events that transpire are surpassed only by the realization that her story was an example of not just... Read more
Published on Sept. 3 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars READ IT
I am so sad to read this but its something that needs to be read. this is another one that should be required reading in high school. Read more
Published on Aug. 5 2003 by ~* * LA * *~
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