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Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors

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This extraordinary book contains eyewitness accounts of life in Cambodia during Pol Pot's genocidal Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, accounts written by survivors who were children at the time. The book has been put together by Dith Pran, whose own experiences in Cambodia were so graphically portrayed in the film The Killing Fields. The testimonies related here bear po This extraordinary book contains eyewitness accounts of life in Cambodia during Pol Pot's genocidal Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, accounts written by survivors who were children at the time. The book has been put together by Dith Pran, whose own experiences in Cambodia were so graphically portrayed in the film The Killing Fields. The testimonies related here bear poignant witness to the slaughter the Khmer Rouge inflicted on the Cambodian people. The contributors—most of them now in the United States and pictured in photographs that accompany their stories—report on life in Democratic Kampuchea as seen through children's eyes. They speak of their bewilderment and pain as Khmer Rouge cadres tore their families apart, subjected them to harsh brainwashing, drove them from their homes to work in forced-labor camps, and executed captives in front of them. Their stories tell of suffering and the loss of innocence, the struggle to survive against all odds, and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.


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This extraordinary book contains eyewitness accounts of life in Cambodia during Pol Pot's genocidal Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, accounts written by survivors who were children at the time. The book has been put together by Dith Pran, whose own experiences in Cambodia were so graphically portrayed in the film The Killing Fields. The testimonies related here bear po This extraordinary book contains eyewitness accounts of life in Cambodia during Pol Pot's genocidal Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, accounts written by survivors who were children at the time. The book has been put together by Dith Pran, whose own experiences in Cambodia were so graphically portrayed in the film The Killing Fields. The testimonies related here bear poignant witness to the slaughter the Khmer Rouge inflicted on the Cambodian people. The contributors—most of them now in the United States and pictured in photographs that accompany their stories—report on life in Democratic Kampuchea as seen through children's eyes. They speak of their bewilderment and pain as Khmer Rouge cadres tore their families apart, subjected them to harsh brainwashing, drove them from their homes to work in forced-labor camps, and executed captives in front of them. Their stories tell of suffering and the loss of innocence, the struggle to survive against all odds, and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

30 review for Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    This a series of personal memoirs from survivors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the mid 70's. The stories are horrific and bewildering. It never ceases to amaze me what humans are capable of doing to each other. Anybody wo has visited Cambodia or enjoys modern history would probably like this book. Its only downfall is that the stories become repetitious and you almost become blasé about the treatment they suffered. This sort of defeats the purpose of the book. It would probably benefit with This a series of personal memoirs from survivors of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the mid 70's. The stories are horrific and bewildering. It never ceases to amaze me what humans are capable of doing to each other. Anybody wo has visited Cambodia or enjoys modern history would probably like this book. Its only downfall is that the stories become repetitious and you almost become blasé about the treatment they suffered. This sort of defeats the purpose of the book. It would probably benefit with some better editing or a different structure. Having said all that it is easy to read and I found if I would just do one story at a time it easier to take in all the horror.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I had no idea there was genocide in Cambodia in the 70's until I was there in 2006. The people I met made a lasting impression on me. Our tour guide spoke very little about the time during the Khmer Rouge, but when he would talk tears would well up in his eyes. I left longing to know more about their history and understand his pain. It has taken me 4 years to finish reading this book. Saying it's extremely difficult to read is an understatement. It's horrifying. Over a million people were execut I had no idea there was genocide in Cambodia in the 70's until I was there in 2006. The people I met made a lasting impression on me. Our tour guide spoke very little about the time during the Khmer Rouge, but when he would talk tears would well up in his eyes. I left longing to know more about their history and understand his pain. It has taken me 4 years to finish reading this book. Saying it's extremely difficult to read is an understatement. It's horrifying. Over a million people were executed or died from starvation or disease. Pol Pot believed that a Utopian society is an agrarian society, so people who weren't executed were sent to work in the fields. Doctors, teachers, people who wore glasses,(anyone educated basically), were executed. Many of these Khmer Rouge soldiers were children, and many of their victims were children. It's a story that needs to be told and remembered. Not easy to read, but minor compared to what they experienced. I'm rating it a 5 not for it's literary value, but for the importance of the stories themselves.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Katie Verhaeren

    My only qualm with this book is it often seems to god for quantity of authors rather than getting a few really well told, well developed stories. Often times you get only a glimpse at one event in the author's life during the Khmer Rouge domination and when the author or his/her story is intriguing you're left wanting more than just a description of one moment. My only qualm with this book is it often seems to god for quantity of authors rather than getting a few really well told, well developed stories. Often times you get only a glimpse at one event in the author's life during the Khmer Rouge domination and when the author or his/her story is intriguing you're left wanting more than just a description of one moment.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    I am living in Cambodia now and I wanted to read this book to better understand the genocide that devastated this country. Try as I might, I could not get through it. The book is written in a monotone, with so little variation of style or voice between the stories I doubt that it was actually written by individuals, and suspect a rather poor author interviewed survivors and wrote all the stories them self. Horrendous events are described in a flat, almost list like manner that sucks all the emot I am living in Cambodia now and I wanted to read this book to better understand the genocide that devastated this country. Try as I might, I could not get through it. The book is written in a monotone, with so little variation of style or voice between the stories I doubt that it was actually written by individuals, and suspect a rather poor author interviewed survivors and wrote all the stories them self. Horrendous events are described in a flat, almost list like manner that sucks all the emotion from what is being described. I don't expect every book I read to be brilliantly written, but this one simply detracted from the power of the stories being told. If you want an excellent account of the Pol Pot Regime from a child's prospective I highly recommend 'When Broken Glass Floats' by Chanrithy Him.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Leia Spencer

    Short stories on the terrible atrocities suffered by the Cambodian people under Kehmer Rouge rule. Unfortunately the stories all seem to flow into one another as they are are so similar. Similar in their horror and family suffering but similar none the same. I found I became a little desensitized to the suffering because there are just so many stories. I did have to put the book down and come back to it days later because I didn't want to read anymore terrible stories about children and parents Short stories on the terrible atrocities suffered by the Cambodian people under Kehmer Rouge rule. Unfortunately the stories all seem to flow into one another as they are are so similar. Similar in their horror and family suffering but similar none the same. I found I became a little desensitized to the suffering because there are just so many stories. I did have to put the book down and come back to it days later because I didn't want to read anymore terrible stories about children and parents dying. Each voice has a story to tell and frighteningly each story is filled with pain and lose. Thankfully though each survivor is now living elsewhere and was able to live a better fuller life even with these memories. It is good to know what happened not that long ago and to remember how families fought to stay together.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Juniper

    Gruesome, touching, and informative all at the same time. The memoirs at the beginning were better than those at the end. My father is a Cambodian survivor, so reading about this was especially important to me. Fortunately, my paternal side of the family escaped the Khmer Rouge regime before the Genocide began. The book was also a very helpful source in my research for National History Day. I quoted many things. It's a 3/5 for me because the memoirs were a bit too repetitive and some were disorg Gruesome, touching, and informative all at the same time. The memoirs at the beginning were better than those at the end. My father is a Cambodian survivor, so reading about this was especially important to me. Fortunately, my paternal side of the family escaped the Khmer Rouge regime before the Genocide began. The book was also a very helpful source in my research for National History Day. I quoted many things. It's a 3/5 for me because the memoirs were a bit too repetitive and some were disorganized and difficult to understand. The book was also hard to get through because of its monotonous writing style towards the end. However, I recommend all those of Cambodian descent to take a look at this book. May the Cambodian Genocide never be forgotten!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    hard to read. not because of how it's written but instead what's written. there really isn't very much out there about what happened in cambodia during the reign of the khmer rouge, considering they murdered nearly everyone capable of writing or even forming a thought outside of what angka was supposed to be and that those survivors hardly have enough time to find money to feed themselves and their familys, the time or means to write a book isn't there for them. the movie is just as hard to watc hard to read. not because of how it's written but instead what's written. there really isn't very much out there about what happened in cambodia during the reign of the khmer rouge, considering they murdered nearly everyone capable of writing or even forming a thought outside of what angka was supposed to be and that those survivors hardly have enough time to find money to feed themselves and their familys, the time or means to write a book isn't there for them. the movie is just as hard to watch and is the story of the author that collected the storys of these survivors. learning about the past will help us shape the future.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Farrah

    If you're heading to work or live in Cambodia, knowing about these stories is essential. However, this book is really meant for those who aren't leaving their homes any time soon-- those actually going to Cambodia will get much deeper accounts from the people they meet. These stories are important, but they're extremely short and barely scratch the surface. If you're looking for emotional responses to events, you'll find them here. If you're looking for politics and analysis, find something else If you're heading to work or live in Cambodia, knowing about these stories is essential. However, this book is really meant for those who aren't leaving their homes any time soon-- those actually going to Cambodia will get much deeper accounts from the people they meet. These stories are important, but they're extremely short and barely scratch the surface. If you're looking for emotional responses to events, you'll find them here. If you're looking for politics and analysis, find something else. That said, I'm glad this collection exists and that it covers perspectives of people who (for the most part) had different experiences under the Khmer Rouge.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. V Verhaeren

    My only qualm with this book is it often seems to god for quantity of authors rather than getting a few really well told, well developed stories. Often times you get only a glimpse at one event in the author's life during the Khmer Rouge domination and when the author or his/her story is intriguing you're left wanting more than just a description of one moment. My only qualm with this book is it often seems to god for quantity of authors rather than getting a few really well told, well developed stories. Often times you get only a glimpse at one event in the author's life during the Khmer Rouge domination and when the author or his/her story is intriguing you're left wanting more than just a description of one moment.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Renata Azevedo

    I bought this book from a Cambodian kid while I was in Siem Reap market. I have heard about the Cambodian civil war , however didn't know about all the massacre the book describes. It was a true genocide, more than 2m people were killed. The book is very informative, although repetitive as the testimonies repeat the same story all over again. I bought this book from a Cambodian kid while I was in Siem Reap market. I have heard about the Cambodian civil war , however didn't know about all the massacre the book describes. It was a true genocide, more than 2m people were killed. The book is very informative, although repetitive as the testimonies repeat the same story all over again.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    I am glad there is a record of these stories. I think it could have been edited better. Many of the stories are similar but all have personal, amazing, horrific and sometimes beautiful moments to them.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Watson

    Very interesting book detailing the hell children went through during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. People should read to realise the evils mankind is capable of even after 1945.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Derrick

    I bought this book for its many perspectives during Pol Pots regime. It features a lot more authors than I had thought. It does have some variations but many of them repeats what others wrote earlier which confirms that it really was that bad. With so many authors I would have expected more variety. A few more that worked with the Khmer Rouge would have added more depth to how they had it as well. This is a terrifying book to read when you learn how bad they really had it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Peggy Mooney

    Painful History I have visited Cambodia many times and have met survivors of the Killing Fields. This part of Cambodia’s history is important to record and learn. These stories are just tips to the iceberg of what happened in that beautiful country.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steve Castley

    This is a collection of short memoirs told by surviving children from Pol Pot's regime. The stories are so sad and powerful. They are hard to read and reflect on how the world lat this happen. This is a collection of short memoirs told by surviving children from Pol Pot's regime. The stories are so sad and powerful. They are hard to read and reflect on how the world lat this happen.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robby Eckard

    "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nat Olson

    Brutal stories of the Cambodian genocide. They start to run together in your mind after a while.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bernice Van dijck

    Reading about history is learning, especially when the history was just a couple of years ago.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Fifi

    Puts life into perspective ...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Arthur Sperry

    This is a very good book but a very sad one. The stories are tragic in many cases, but as the Goodreads review says, they show the triumph of the human spirit and the will to survive.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bev Cheetham

    An awful account by key witnesses of the Khmer Rouge regimes. God bless them all. Each story is a heart wrenching ordeal of this barbaric and disgusting genocide. It’s raw, real and wrong.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Maria Cristina

    Harrowing stories told by survivors. However, the stories are not fleshed out and are sometimes hard to understand/read and appreciate. Stories could have been edited better.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Emily Deaton

    Absolutely horrifying.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I have read several books written by survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia over the past few years, and although they carry the same general message, I continue to read more, as each story is unique. So too are the accounts in this book, whose authors were children during Pol Pot’s regime. They were all eyewitnesses to the horrors of war, to killings, tortures, starvation, brainwashing, and overwork, but each person’s experience was different. Because these stories were seen through th I have read several books written by survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia over the past few years, and although they carry the same general message, I continue to read more, as each story is unique. So too are the accounts in this book, whose authors were children during Pol Pot’s regime. They were all eyewitnesses to the horrors of war, to killings, tortures, starvation, brainwashing, and overwork, but each person’s experience was different. Because these stories were seen through the eyes of children, the suffering and lost innocence of Cambodia’s genocidal past is even more poignant.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie M

    This book was eye-opening. The writing style was very attractive, and the mix of poetry and music deepened the meaning and added variety. The scene that really stuck to me was the story of Charles Ok, called "Jail Without Walls". Even the title is memorable! As an eighth grader, this book really opened my eyes to the real world, and I now have more understanding of how and why Cambodia is in the state it's in. This also makes me want to make a difference. I would recommend this book to everyone. This book was eye-opening. The writing style was very attractive, and the mix of poetry and music deepened the meaning and added variety. The scene that really stuck to me was the story of Charles Ok, called "Jail Without Walls". Even the title is memorable! As an eighth grader, this book really opened my eyes to the real world, and I now have more understanding of how and why Cambodia is in the state it's in. This also makes me want to make a difference. I would recommend this book to everyone. It would be good for the younger generation (to get them thinking about the world), and it would also be suitable for adults.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Louisa Keron

    If you're like me and knew nothing about Cambodia or Pol Pot, this is a solid introduction. Numerous people who were children in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 and we learn about the brutality of it. Due to the horror, I would recommend taking a break after every few chapters otherwise you might become a bit depressed. If necessary, you can probably skip a lot of them as they usually have similar stories. The best ones are the one that include a little message at the end about how it impacted who th If you're like me and knew nothing about Cambodia or Pol Pot, this is a solid introduction. Numerous people who were children in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979 and we learn about the brutality of it. Due to the horror, I would recommend taking a break after every few chapters otherwise you might become a bit depressed. If necessary, you can probably skip a lot of them as they usually have similar stories. The best ones are the one that include a little message at the end about how it impacted who they became. It is a very important book and I feel like the Tonle Sap Lake massacre will stay with me for a long time.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cliff

    It's a bit hard to judge this book apart from the events it chronicles. Written by a handful of survivors of what was the worst mass-murder in history, in terms of percentage of population, this book is powerful. The fact that it is written by people to whom English is a second language, and to whom are recounting things that happened to them as children, makes it even more remarkable. I do wish the book had provided a little more context. I'm aware of the basics, and I understand the impulse to It's a bit hard to judge this book apart from the events it chronicles. Written by a handful of survivors of what was the worst mass-murder in history, in terms of percentage of population, this book is powerful. The fact that it is written by people to whom English is a second language, and to whom are recounting things that happened to them as children, makes it even more remarkable. I do wish the book had provided a little more context. I'm aware of the basics, and I understand the impulse to simply let the stories talk for themselves. But it still would have been nice to know more. Perhaps that's a book for another day.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Zi Lin EVHS Tan

    Dith Pran's Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors showed me survivors' personal experiences under the Khmer Rouge regime, but their stories were too short to actually see what they went through in depth. Although informative, it was repetitive, as the stories told the same thing over and over again. Dith Pran's Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors showed me survivors' personal experiences under the Khmer Rouge regime, but their stories were too short to actually see what they went through in depth. Although informative, it was repetitive, as the stories told the same thing over and over again.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen Hannah

    I purchased this book while on vacation in Cambodia, and after hearing stories about the Khumer Rouge haulocaust, I felt this was a must read. very difficult at times to read, but very inspiring. The survivors in this book faced unimaginable horror, survived, and went on to lead happy productive lives. Very inspiring. I would highly recommend this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    It gave me nightmares for a week, but is well-worth reading. The collection of memories from children who survived the Khmer Rouge rule shows the widespread evil of the KR and how those who were well-off and educated prior to the KR coming to power were hardest hit.

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