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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

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From a childhood survivor of the Camdodian genocide under the regime of Pol Pot, this is a riveting narrative of war crimes and desperate actions, the unnerving strength of a small girl and her family, and their triumph of spirit. One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the a From a childhood survivor of the Camdodian genocide under the regime of Pol Pot, this is a riveting narrative of war crimes and desperate actions, the unnerving strength of a small girl and her family, and their triumph of spirit. One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung's family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed. Harrowing yet hopeful, Loung's powerful story is an unforgettable account of a family shaken and shattered, yet miraculously sustained by courage and love in the face of unspeakable brutality.


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From a childhood survivor of the Camdodian genocide under the regime of Pol Pot, this is a riveting narrative of war crimes and desperate actions, the unnerving strength of a small girl and her family, and their triumph of spirit. One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the a From a childhood survivor of the Camdodian genocide under the regime of Pol Pot, this is a riveting narrative of war crimes and desperate actions, the unnerving strength of a small girl and her family, and their triumph of spirit. One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung's family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed. Harrowing yet hopeful, Loung's powerful story is an unforgettable account of a family shaken and shattered, yet miraculously sustained by courage and love in the face of unspeakable brutality.

30 review for First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

  1. 4 out of 5

    Apple

    There are some things left unlearned from history books. You can read about the Cambodian genocide from many other sources that will explain the facts and statistics in the traditional sterile style that historic texts usually take. You can actually witness the places and things that history has left behind. And then, you can dive into personal accounts of history; how humanity struggles to survive during some of its darkest hours. While I am usually a sucker for auto/biographical works for the There are some things left unlearned from history books. You can read about the Cambodian genocide from many other sources that will explain the facts and statistics in the traditional sterile style that historic texts usually take. You can actually witness the places and things that history has left behind. And then, you can dive into personal accounts of history; how humanity struggles to survive during some of its darkest hours. While I am usually a sucker for auto/biographical works for the above reason, I have never been held so captive by a book in all my life. I've read many other survivor accounts from other historical periods, but this one disturbed me to no end; such a young child, such horrible atrocities being committed, witnessed, remembered. I could never imagine walking in her shoes at her age. Her story will haunt me forever. I found that as the hours passed after I began the book, I could not go to sleep without finishing the story, without making sure this child would make it out alright. Of course we know she does survive, how else would the book be written, but I read on as if her life depended on reading the very last word. I finished it just as the sun started to rise and spent those first beautiful rays in complete thanksgiving: how lucky are we, who have lived so well, to be able to learn from those who have not had that chance.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    On a recent trip to Cambodia I got to witness it's rich culture, lush landscapes and delicious, delicious food. At every turn I also saw the remnants of a painful past. I spent a hot afternoon walking through the Tuel Sleng Genocide Museum, having my breath taken away as I walked from room to room, each worse than the last. In one section of the former prison, I walked into a hastily made brick cell and felt so instantly claustrophobic I had to run out into the open air.The pictures, information On a recent trip to Cambodia I got to witness it's rich culture, lush landscapes and delicious, delicious food. At every turn I also saw the remnants of a painful past. I spent a hot afternoon walking through the Tuel Sleng Genocide Museum, having my breath taken away as I walked from room to room, each worse than the last. In one section of the former prison, I walked into a hastily made brick cell and felt so instantly claustrophobic I had to run out into the open air.The pictures, informational plaques and even the conversation, held via hand gestures, with a former prisoner couldn't help me grasp the genocide that occurred not that long ago. Later I went to Choeng Ek, the most (in)famous of the killing fields. I walked up to, around and even in the commemorative stupa that had been built to honor the murdered and to hold their remains. Seeing children's skulls display evidence of so much violence with the cracks, dents and bullet holes broke my heart. Walking through the grounds and stepping on peoples' bones and clothing remnants that were making their way up through the dirt... Knowing that every year the rains would bring up more remains.... How do people make peace with that? How do they move on? Loung Ung lived through the genocide and has carried on her life by teaching others about what happened, helping them to survive the atrocities that seems to keep happening around the world. In her memoir "First They Killed My Father: A daughter of Cambodia remembers" she tells of the Cambodia genocide from the eyes of a child. This perspective that makes what happened all the more heart-wrenching but also makes the facts easier to understand. (I use that word loosely, because I can never understand why what happened did, but I want to, need to, understand the facts of what did happen.) Genocide is such a big concept. The Cambodia genocide was so messy, political, based on a series of events that made it possible. A child's memory strips out all of the extraneous facts and delivers only what they know. In her memoir, she inserts the historical facts necessary to keep her story moving, but she inserts them as dialogue from her father delivered to her. History as would be explained to a small child doesn't include the political intricacies that make our world so confusing. For this, I was grateful to Ung. Her tale helped me establish some basic knowledge from which I can expand with future reading. A quick read, "First They Killed My Father: A daughter of Cambodia remembers" is the kind of book you start reading and don't want to put down. It's a great introduction to anyone interested in visiting Cambodia, learning about their history or learning about genocide in general.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I read this memoir of Loung Ung on the heels of A Fine Balance, and I must say, now I need to read something light and joyful to regain a little balance of my own. Of course, we all knew, secondhand, what was happening in Cambodia in the 1970s. We heard horrifying tales of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s killing fields. But, hearing such news from a reporter, and hearing the account of a victim, are entirely different experiences. I marvel at the resilience of people who endure such atrocities; I I read this memoir of Loung Ung on the heels of A Fine Balance, and I must say, now I need to read something light and joyful to regain a little balance of my own. Of course, we all knew, secondhand, what was happening in Cambodia in the 1970s. We heard horrifying tales of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s killing fields. But, hearing such news from a reporter, and hearing the account of a victim, are entirely different experiences. I marvel at the resilience of people who endure such atrocities; I wonder at the cruel nature of those who follow such a man and commit such acts. Loung Ung’s account is all the more poignant because her four-year trial began at the age of five. An age when we do not let our children cross the street on their own. Watching soldiers march her father away to his death was not even the worst thing she witnessed. The hatred she so rightfully felt toward the Khmer Rouge and the soldiers of that regime must have been beyond imagination, and must easily have influenced every day of her life since. How horrible to have so much to want revenge for and no one to hold accountable or way to render any semblance of justice. I couldn’t help chronicling my own life alongside hers. When she was being ripped from her life in Phnom Penh and put onto a road of starvation and hard labor, I was graduating college and agonizing over making a good career choice. When she was being delivered from the refugee camps in Thailand to a future in Vermont, I was getting married and embarking on a new life of my own. Between those two events, she endured the unimaginable and I failed to fully appreciate the golden blessings of my own good fortune. It is important that we read these kinds of accounts. They enrich our understanding of our own position in the world and they remind us why it is important that we pay attention and care about what is happening beyond our own lives and our own borders.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    A riveting but harrowing account of a young Cambodian girl who's innocent idyllic childhood is swiftly obliterated by the invasion of the Khmer Rouge. Loung at 5 years old and one of seven children shares her traumatic story of the 4 years spent under the terrifying Khmer Rouge reign trying to survive after her family are forced to flee their home in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh in 1975, it details all the devastating hardships from being forced to live in a labour camp, starvation, disease and A riveting but harrowing account of a young Cambodian girl who's innocent idyllic childhood is swiftly obliterated by the invasion of the Khmer Rouge. Loung at 5 years old and one of seven children shares her traumatic story of the 4 years spent under the terrifying Khmer Rouge reign trying to survive after her family are forced to flee their home in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh in 1975, it details all the devastating hardships from being forced to live in a labour camp, starvation, disease and learning to become a child soldier, and then navigating dangerous landmine terrain to reunite with her family. The story is relentless, the bravery of these kids having to endure hunger, being separated from parents and siblings watching some of her family being taken away only to be led to their death, it reminds you that no child should ever have to deal with the devastation of genocide, the loss of human life for political purposes is truly one of the hardest things to read about. The book reminds me how lucky I am to have been immune to such horrors in my lifetime but it's also equally important to hear these stories and learn about the true testament of the human spirit, the courage and the fight to live and survive is truly amazing. What an amazing account, and what a brave, strong and tenacious girl she was, many people died and weren't so lucky to escape. I'm so glad Loung lived to share her tale and how she was able to find a purpose with her mission in life to educate and inform by becoming a human rights activist and also the national spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine-Free World.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Horace Derwent

    FOR ALL THOSE WHOM GOT TORTURED, INSULTED, PERSECUTED, RAPED AND SLAUGHTERED BY COMMUNISM THROUGHOUT THE NIGHTMARISH YEARS IN LIVING HELL ON EARTH You know nothing about Cambodia if you don't read this book http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4882376/ FOR ALL THOSE WHOM GOT TORTURED, INSULTED, PERSECUTED, RAPED AND SLAUGHTERED BY COMMUNISM THROUGHOUT THE NIGHTMARISH YEARS IN LIVING HELL ON EARTH You know nothing about Cambodia if you don't read this book http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4882376/

  6. 4 out of 5

    Becks

    I feel the need to explain why I ended up giving this one three stars. I expected to come out of this with no less than a four star review. Ung's suffering under the Khmer Rouge is long and both physically and mentally painful. I learned a lot about the Cambodian Genocide (at least from the point of view of a child). I always wanted to keep reading and was invested in her and her family's story. That being said, the pacing had me all over the place and the writing was... okay. I felt a little lo I feel the need to explain why I ended up giving this one three stars. I expected to come out of this with no less than a four star review. Ung's suffering under the Khmer Rouge is long and both physically and mentally painful. I learned a lot about the Cambodian Genocide (at least from the point of view of a child). I always wanted to keep reading and was invested in her and her family's story. That being said, the pacing had me all over the place and the writing was... okay. I felt a little lost and confused - like I was missing parts of the story that became relevant later on. Part of this is because the story is being told from the perspective of a 5-8 year old and, understandably, she doesn't comprehend everything that's happening around her, but it could have benefited from more information concerning the larger picture. Choosing to tell her story the way she did had more drawbacks than benefits in my opinion. The writing was great in certain spots and then really bad in others. Enough to make me question what the editors were thinking when they read it (words missing, words repeated in the same sentence, bad sentence structure), though this only seemed to be an issue toward the end. I'm a bit disappointed. I was expecting to get more out of this memoir than I did. The book isn't that long! She easily could have expanded on certain things and still kept the book at a reasonable length. It has made me want to read and understand more about the Cambodian Genocide, but part of that is because I was left lacking explanations.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Popsugar Challenge 2020 - A book set in a country beginning with C This is an own voices account of the Pol Pot regime, the regime that killed two million Cambodians, a quarter of the country's population and its a hard read. It felt physically exhausting to tell you the truth. I visited Cambodia in 2018 and did not meet a single Cambodian who did not lose their parents in this genocide. I stood in the killing fields and saw the clothing of those murdered start to penetrate the soil surface as wi Popsugar Challenge 2020 - A book set in a country beginning with C This is an own voices account of the Pol Pot regime, the regime that killed two million Cambodians, a quarter of the country's population and its a hard read. It felt physically exhausting to tell you the truth. I visited Cambodia in 2018 and did not meet a single Cambodian who did not lose their parents in this genocide. I stood in the killing fields and saw the clothing of those murdered start to penetrate the soil surface as with each rainy season that passes, the mass graves become more exposed. You can smell the death in the air. Whether you've been or not this is a brutal read, it raw and its beyond distressing. Angelina Jolie and her adopted son Maddox (a Cambodian) have produced a Netflix original film based on this book under the same name which is also well worth watching. I'm not here to rate peoples lives, an auto five star from me.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂

    I visited SE Asia this year & visiting S-21 prison & the Killing Fields moved me more than anything else I saw. & this book moved me more than anything else I read this year. No child should suffer what Loung does and she doesn't flinch from telling things that show her in a less than favourable light - but if she hadn't been an extremely tough five year old, she would never have survived (view spoiler)[in one of the few funny lines in the book, Loung says she doesn't know how her far softer sist I visited SE Asia this year & visiting S-21 prison & the Killing Fields moved me more than anything else I saw. & this book moved me more than anything else I read this year. No child should suffer what Loung does and she doesn't flinch from telling things that show her in a less than favourable light - but if she hadn't been an extremely tough five year old, she would never have survived (view spoiler)[in one of the few funny lines in the book, Loung says she doesn't know how her far softer sister did! (hide spoiler)] Some recountings are like visualisations from when Loung was much older, but although they are a little jarring I think they are an important part of her story. Most highly recommended!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mariah Roze

    This book broke my heart into pieces... I read this book for the Diversity in All Forms! book club. If you would like to participate in the discussion here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/... "One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung's family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loun This book broke my heart into pieces... I read this book for the Diversity in All Forms! book club. If you would like to participate in the discussion here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/... "One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung's family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed."

  10. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Sandi ❣

    3 stars This book is written by Looung Ung - as a child - the child that ran from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during the Vietnam Conflict. Ung spent 4 years running with her family. A young child from a family of 7 children she had lived a wealthy life in Phnom Penh until the Khmer Rouge entered their city. During her flee to freedom her family was displaced and separated. She finally ended up in a refugee camp, on a small schooner with many other people and traveled to America to join one of her 3 stars This book is written by Looung Ung - as a child - the child that ran from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during the Vietnam Conflict. Ung spent 4 years running with her family. A young child from a family of 7 children she had lived a wealthy life in Phnom Penh until the Khmer Rouge entered their city. During her flee to freedom her family was displaced and separated. She finally ended up in a refugee camp, on a small schooner with many other people and traveled to America to join one of her brothers. On one hand having read the book Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison I understood more of what Ung was going through. On the other hand I believe that having read that book it also took something away from this book, causing me to rate it lower than I would have. There is a movie directed by Angelina Jolie with the same name as this book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    This is a very difficult book to read. It is not eloquently written, but how do you write about the Khmer Rouge and what they did to the Cambodian people April 1975-1980 eloquently? One traumatic event after the other, from the first to the last page. Reading it I simply wanted to get to the end. I am not about to questions any of that written here……. I do think this book should be read. How do you rate a book like this?

  12. 5 out of 5

    shakespeareandspice

    Read for Tales & Co. | Review originally posted on A Skeptical Reader. First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung is a memoir of the author’s childhood living under the Pol Pot regime. It opens right before the Khmer Rouge army storms into Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Ung’s family has to abandon their home and belongings overnight and ends with her migration to the United States. Encapsulated within is the story of a young Chinese-Cambodian girl who survived a genocide that exterminated millions of her Read for Tales & Co. | Review originally posted on A Skeptical Reader. First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung is a memoir of the author’s childhood living under the Pol Pot regime. It opens right before the Khmer Rouge army storms into Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Ung’s family has to abandon their home and belongings overnight and ends with her migration to the United States. Encapsulated within is the story of a young Chinese-Cambodian girl who survived a genocide that exterminated millions of her people. As I had no previous knowledge of this event, the dreadful title of the memoir kept my stomach in knots as my mind constantly speculated over when such tragedies would come to an end, or if they would at all. Not helped by the fact that the tortures inflicted on the author and her family are relentless and without mercy. Living under an oppressive regime where all individuality is stripped is scary enough but the consistent humiliations and threat of annihilation synthesized a dystopian society in my head unlike any other. Last year I’d read The Rape of Nanking and while that book is a textbook autopsy of war crimes, horrors that have been speculated to be the cause for the author’s suicide, First They Killed My Father somehow felt even more devastating because a young child stood at the center screaming for justice. The memoir is somewhat fictionalized with snippets of dream-like imaginations from the young Ung. It’s debatable whether these scenes are a reaction to the trauma inflicted upon her or some other underlying psychological condition. I’m not a huge fan of creative nonfiction so I don’t care about having to question the validity of the way a nonfiction narrative unfolds, however, in this case, I didn’t object to Ung’s approach to storytelling. The fictionalized events read like self-inflicted wounds but perhaps awarded the author some therapy I must allow as an interloper. If you have even the slightest appreciation for engaging memoirs, First They Killed My Father is a must-read. If not for the fact that it reads like fiction then to educate oneself about one of the most sickening genocides in modern history.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia

    This was a heart-breaking memoir. It was very difficult to read . . . but imagine how much harder it was to live it.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    On Monday I finished reading First They Killed My Father which is the autobiographical story of a young girl's experiences during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.  I've read a lot of books like this and I usually find them uplifting but this book just made me sad.  In Rwanda, you see people's incredible resilience and determination to overcome the prejudices of the past.  When I read the story of the boy solider, A Long Way Gone, I was heartened by the knowledge that he had escaped that life On Monday I finished reading First They Killed My Father which is the autobiographical story of a young girl's experiences during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.  I've read a lot of books like this and I usually find them uplifting but this book just made me sad.  In Rwanda, you see people's incredible resilience and determination to overcome the prejudices of the past.  When I read the story of the boy solider, A Long Way Gone, I was heartened by the knowledge that he had escaped that life and become a strong and motivational person. The problem is that I cannot derive anything positive at all from what happened in Cambodia. For four years the Khmer Rouge government systematically worked, starved and tortured to death 20% of the population. The reason that I picked up this book in the first place is that they have started genocide trials in Cambodia now and I wanted to understand why. I have collected a couple of links over at my other blog to make a start at understanding what happened.This excellent and tender book details the experiences of a 5-year-old girl as she experiences starvation and the loss of her family members. She acknowledges at the start of the book that her brothers and sister helped her with the book and this accounts for the strong recall of conversations and events. This is a book rich in details about both the cosmopolitan life in Phnom Penh in the early 70s and the desperate futility of the Khmer Rouge regime. I would unequivocally recommend this book to everyone that I know. I think everyone should read it to understand both what happened and the necessity behind bringing the Khmer Rouge members to trial. It is a really easy book to read and you will find it quite difficult to put down.  But yes... in the end it is a very sad story.  I have the most uneasy feeling that in 30 years time, we will be reading similar stories about Darfur and we'll be left wondering why we didn't do anything about it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    aPriL does feral sometimes

    It's complex how I inadvertently ended up hearing a lot of stuff from other sides of politics and White Privilege so-to-speak as a young woman, but it is true. I still occasionally end up at dinner tables with people who think and speak openly, not joking, in racist/sexist opinions around me because I am still married to that conservative Republican (now, conservative Democrat) eleven years older than me. I know a genocide when I hear about them or when I read of them. I have read other books or It's complex how I inadvertently ended up hearing a lot of stuff from other sides of politics and White Privilege so-to-speak as a young woman, but it is true. I still occasionally end up at dinner tables with people who think and speak openly, not joking, in racist/sexist opinions around me because I am still married to that conservative Republican (now, conservative Democrat) eleven years older than me. I know a genocide when I hear about them or when I read of them. I have read other books or have seen new stories of genocides. I see the slaughter of children in ALL of them. I worked as a secretary at a public school which accepted Muslim refugees from the Serbian-Yugoslavian war and one of the Somalian wars. I heard stories from the Sarajevo children - like, they had to pick out the bits fallen off of nearby floating and rotting bodies in the river water they had gone to fetch or bathe in when they were ten years old. Five to ten years old is the age where a lot of authors, who witnessed a genocide at those young ages, seem to begin their reminiscences of their childhood. Then the killing begins. Gentle reader, 'First They Killed My Father' is about a genocide which happened in Cambodia in 1975-1980. What makes this autobiography particularly wrenching and poignant is it is written by a survivor of the Cambodian genocide experienced when she was five years old. How she survived is a genuine miracle. The book's one flaw is the author narrates, present tense, her experience as a five year old. She is too verbally and intellectually proficient for any five year old I have ever known (excepting one three-year-old genius I met). There is a mix of genuine child and adult awareness in the narration. The author today has the mental dexterity and vocabulary to express in words what probably were inchoate feelings of rage and loss when she was really five years old. But like myself who has memories of stuff which happened when I was two, she remembers it all. Trauma does that to some of us - fixed-in-time memories. Whatever voice we use to describe them. Context may be missing. For awhile. Then a call to a psychologist is sometimes necessary to help out with the context of the memories... From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pol_Pot: "Pol Pot (born Saloth Sâr 19 May 1925 – 15 April 1998) was a Cambodian revolutionary and politician who governed Cambodia as the Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea between 1975 and 1979. Ideologically a Marxist–Leninist and a Khmer nationalist, he was a leading member of Cambodia's communist movement, the Khmer Rouge, from 1963 until 1997 and served as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea from 1963 to 1981. Under his administration, Cambodia was converted into a one-party communist state governed according to Pol Pot's interpretation of Marxism–Leninism." From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khmer_R... "The Khmer Rouge regime was highly autocratic, xenophobic, paranoid, and repressive. Many deaths resulted from the regime's social engineering policies and the "Maha Lout Ploh", an imitation of China's Great Leap Forward, which caused the Great Chinese Famine. The Khmer Rouge's attempts at agricultural reform through collectivisation similarly led to widespread famine, while its insistence on absolute self-sufficiency even in the supply of medicine led to the death of many thousands from treatable diseases such as malaria. The Khmer Rouge regime murdered hundreds of thousands of their perceived political opponents, and its racist emphasis on national purity resulted in the genocide of Cambodian minorities. Arbitrary executions and torture were carried out by its cadres against perceived subversive elements, or during genocidal purges of its own ranks between 1975 and 1978. Ultimately, the Cambodian genocide led to the death of 1.5 to 2 million people, around 25% of Cambodia's population." The social labels change, the political justifications change, the group enduring genocidal techniques changes - but the techniques of genocide are forever. -Vilification of the 'other' to justify mass murder or torture -Murder of everybody in revenge for the past injustices of a few -Built-in institutional inequality creating 'slave' classes -Lack of support for universal and honest education for the masses -Lack of health-care for both mental and physical ailments of the sick deemed useless to society -Lack of support or respect for the elderly 'First They Killed My Father', the autobiography of surviving a genocide by Loung Ung, first published in 2000, is a harrowing read. But however terrible the description of life under Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge communists was, it is an important and necessary book for people to read. We lucky people of the Western World are oblivious to the worst men can do. We'd rather blithely, and often breezily in order to change the subject, attribute the cause of genocides to the innocent victims somehow. We don't care to really understand the genesis of genocides, and we don't take the time to learn about them despite numerous autobiographies. Many autobiographies by people who have survived genocides around the world are in English and have been purchased by libraries all over the world. Despite this, I often talk to people who know nothing of them. Some who are aware of genocides from the evening news or news websites often tell me it is because those people brought it on themselves, or they were sinful in the eyes of God, or they are of a lazy race of humans doomed to genocide because of their rotten or corrupt cultures and natures, or because of their 'wrong' religion. They lack discipline, I have been told, and they do not know the meaning of hard work. I am not making this up. People have said these things to me. Many older people still believe these things. These people in my personal experience have been mostly all White or of White American culture, were born in America or are naturalized citizens. Some are third-generation immigrants from India, China and Europe. Most were raised as Christians of one sort or another, some of which are considered cults, but some are Buddhists, or Hindus. Probably because I am in my late sixties, look mostly White and was a quiet secretary (during the era of IBM electric typewriters, and when physical paperwork copies were filed in physical cabinets, when secretary 'girls' (no matter the age of the woman) had to know shorthand, and we had only male managers as bosses), people often treated me as an obedient girl of no opinions who knew my place. Which I was, actually, except for the no opinions. I also married a White Republican eleven years older than me whose friends all tended to be conservatives and Republican or right-leaning libertarians/entrepreneurs or White Christian fundamentalists/evangelicals. I ended up in parties (business and private) or with people in genuine social situations who spoke in racist/sexist terms and jokes, and often utilized biblical commandments and beliefs as reasons for their own successes or status in life. Or because of Buddha. Or Hinduism. Generally, they were nice people, even if sexist and racist. Most of them liked children and pets. The prejudices and opinions from the friends and acquaintances of my husband (who were not the folks I met from my jobs or school, some being Buddhists and Hindu immigrants) came from ignorance and from childhoods of being indoctrinated by equally ignorant and prejudiced 'Greatest Generation' parents or even grandparents born around 1900. Most either never got a high school degree but worked up various ladders in America, or they got some kind of college degree, and most of them attained the middle-class through, yes, hard work AND because they were White men with acceptable culturally-appropriate American manners. Most were raised in White culture and neighborhoods, or aspired to join the culturally White middle-class. Most had kids, most wanted their kids to go to college, some did send their kids to college. Many of them now argue a lot with those of their adult college-educated kids and grandkids who vote Democrat and believe in what they, the conservatives, consider socialism or communism, which they, the conservatives, violently disagree with as a government choice while they pick up their social security checks and make doctor appointments paid by Medicare. They often have in their past bought their first homes or gone to school under GI Bill loans (if male and a veteran), or had gotten and worked first jobs under federal apprenticeship programs. They still think genocides occur to people who were bad in some way, if they even are aware of any particular genocide. Often they know of one genocide - the Nazi one - but these others are either unknown to them or they believe they weren't genocides of the same level of horror as that of the Nazis trying to exterminate all of the Jews of Europe. Sigh. Today, I am no longer a quiet obedient secretary, but a bitter feminist bitch, and a lot more outspoken. I have a hell of a lot of opinions. Like this one - Wars and genocides kill a lot of innocent children, whatever their religion or ethnicity or culture or type of government. The sufferings of these children, besides being enormous, horrible and soul-crushing, are all alike as described in these autobiographies. How do the sufferings of these millions of innocent young toddlers and children fit into the racist/cultural/religious theories of why they deserve to die or survive after suffering mind-destroying tortures? Tell me how you, gentle reader, if you do, 'intellectualize' away the broken, sometimes raped, and abused bodies of children through the typical lenses which many adults use in genocidal wars of 'foreigners' - their parents 'supported' the bad or wrong kind of religion, class, politics, culture? You can't lie to me, those of you who still do not examine your beliefs and biases or ignorance or racial or cultural prejudices. I heard you. I saw you. You. Are. The. Bad. People.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kathi

    I just finished reading this book - another one I had a hard time putting down - I read it in 3 days. I learned so much from this memoir which takes place, starting in April 1975 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. At this point the Cambodian Civil War has not quite taken hold. The narrator of the story is a 5 year old girl, the 2nd to youngest in a family of 7 children. She comes from a rather well-off, very loving middle-class family who live in the capital of Cambodia; Phenom Penh. The 5 year old takes I just finished reading this book - another one I had a hard time putting down - I read it in 3 days. I learned so much from this memoir which takes place, starting in April 1975 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. At this point the Cambodian Civil War has not quite taken hold. The narrator of the story is a 5 year old girl, the 2nd to youngest in a family of 7 children. She comes from a rather well-off, very loving middle-class family who live in the capital of Cambodia; Phenom Penh. The 5 year old takes us through 5 years of the war up to the S. Vietnamese liberating them. Eventually, she makes her way to the U.S. as a refugee. This unbelieveably true story had me in tears in places. The author, Loung Ung is a real survivor. She also wrote a sequel to this one called Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind which I plan on reading. For those of you who enjoy reading memoirs that take place in far off places, or about historical eras, or to read a book about a very strong woman who is a real survivor; I would highly recommend this book. It is very educational & at the same time, moving, emotional & thought provoking.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Betty Ho

    Very often, when people are asked to recall genocides in 20th century, Jews Holocaust, Stalin's purge, Rwanda or the Cultural Revolution are the very first things come to mind. People rarely remember the Cambodia genocide (or they have never heard of) as it was always overshadowed by the Vietnam war with no or little media coverage. However, it doesn't mean this is any less painful. I admire Loung Ung for her dedication on telling the world what happened under the rule of Khmer Rogue. I'm glad t Very often, when people are asked to recall genocides in 20th century, Jews Holocaust, Stalin's purge, Rwanda or the Cultural Revolution are the very first things come to mind. People rarely remember the Cambodia genocide (or they have never heard of) as it was always overshadowed by the Vietnam war with no or little media coverage. However, it doesn't mean this is any less painful. I admire Loung Ung for her dedication on telling the world what happened under the rule of Khmer Rogue. I'm glad that I came across this book while searching for a perfect book on Cambodia history. The author takes us through this event through the eyes of a 5 years old child which make it much easier to digest comparing to any history book. Although this book doesn't elaborate the situation in terms of politics, it entices you to find out more by yourself.

  18. 4 out of 5

    ↠Ameerah↞

    The Cambodian Genocide is not one you learn about in schools or often hear people mention when they are asked to recall genocides that have happened in the 20th century, but it should be. This book floored me. I had to often remind myself that what I am reading is a recollection of factual events and not fiction because they were so horrific and described humanity it is utmost cruellest form. We see the story unfold through Luong's eyes, starting as a 5-year-old. She takes us along on her journe The Cambodian Genocide is not one you learn about in schools or often hear people mention when they are asked to recall genocides that have happened in the 20th century, but it should be. This book floored me. I had to often remind myself that what I am reading is a recollection of factual events and not fiction because they were so horrific and described humanity it is utmost cruellest form. We see the story unfold through Luong's eyes, starting as a 5-year-old. She takes us along on her journey as a young girl living in opulence and stability, ripped away from everything she knows and thrown into a world of unrelenting violence and torture, totally void of any compassion and mercy. The Khmer Rouge aimed to establish a classless communist state based on a rural agrarian economy and a complete rejection of the free market and capitalism. This resulted in the abolishment of money, religious practices, places of worship and schools. Universities and government buildings were either closed or turned into reeducation camps and prisons. Now living as part of a society that murders its citizens for being intellectuals, professionals and ethnic minorities, Luong and her family must hide their true identities in a desperate effort to survive. Anything that signified they were 'impure' would have cost them their lives and the Khmer Rouge did not extend any mercy to children. There is a constant sense of hopelessness whilst reading and thinking about how this young girl will not only survive but escape a ruthless regime. And if she does, how will she be able to live a normal life after witnessing the atrocities she did. Thankfully she does escape and has been able to share her harrowing and brave story with the world. Luong's book is a difficult read but also an incredibly important one. Books like this fill in the gaps of history that would have been either forgotten or erased over time. I think it is pertinent to mention here that there is a current genocide happening against Uyghur Muslims in China. If you do not know about it, please do your research and also raise awareness. If the excuse for lack of awareness and action during the Cambodian Genocide was lack of reporting and media, then we do not have that excuse. Especially when social media has the power it does today. The information is there if you make the effort to look it up and educate yourself. 

  19. 5 out of 5

    ❤️

    I had been eager to read Loung Ung's story for a while now, and knew I wanted to before watching Angelina Jolie's film adaptation, but waited because I knew I had to be in the right frame of mind for it. I suggest those interested in reading it as well do the same, because there is so much detail and so many memories that Loung shares in less than 250 pages, and it is, naturally, a very difficult and upsetting book to read. That said, it is an incredibly important book and so worth picking up. Be I had been eager to read Loung Ung's story for a while now, and knew I wanted to before watching Angelina Jolie's film adaptation, but waited because I knew I had to be in the right frame of mind for it. I suggest those interested in reading it as well do the same, because there is so much detail and so many memories that Loung shares in less than 250 pages, and it is, naturally, a very difficult and upsetting book to read. That said, it is an incredibly important book and so worth picking up. Because this is a memoir about surviving genocide, I feel like there's not much I need or want to say about it. It just is what it is - fantastically written, heartbreaking, fascinating, mind-boggling, infuriating. I instantly related to Loung as a daughter with a very close relationship to her father, and I honestly cannot fathom mustering up the strength to survive what she did at such a young age. Loung Ung is an incredible woman and I'm grateful to her for sharing her story with me and with everyone else who has or will read her memoirs.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    I read this book in prepartion to our trip to Cambodia in April. I would have read it anyway, however, because I love depressing autobiographies. This one was far different than any other I have ever read being that it was from a child's perspective. It retold her unbelievable story of escaping the killing fields during Pol Pot's reign with the Khmer Rouge. I think everyone in my generation needs to read this book. Many people my age do not even know Pol Pot's name, moreless that he killed over I read this book in prepartion to our trip to Cambodia in April. I would have read it anyway, however, because I love depressing autobiographies. This one was far different than any other I have ever read being that it was from a child's perspective. It retold her unbelievable story of escaping the killing fields during Pol Pot's reign with the Khmer Rouge. I think everyone in my generation needs to read this book. Many people my age do not even know Pol Pot's name, moreless that he killed over 2 million people...in the 1970's none the less! Her story will make you appreciate even the simplest things in life.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Irene

    This is a true survival story. The memoirs of Loung as she lived through the Khmer Roug take over of her country from 1975-1979 as a five year old girl with her parents and siblings are unbelievable. She ended up becoming an orphan as the soldiers murder her parents and two sisters during this horrible time in Cambodia. It is sometimes tough to read but her strength is truly amazing as she survives the worst time in her countrys history alone in a camp for child soldiers as Pol Pot reigns terror This is a true survival story. The memoirs of Loung as she lived through the Khmer Roug take over of her country from 1975-1979 as a five year old girl with her parents and siblings are unbelievable. She ended up becoming an orphan as the soldiers murder her parents and two sisters during this horrible time in Cambodia. It is sometimes tough to read but her strength is truly amazing as she survives the worst time in her countrys history alone in a camp for child soldiers as Pol Pot reigns terror on all of Cambodia.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    This book is so heartbreaking at so many levels, i cannot name them. words are useless. I thought at one time at Susanne Collins' Hunger games. of course, there is no comparision, i dont even know why my mind came to that. that is pure stupid science fiction, written from somebody who never had to experience war and famine, Ung's book is pure stupid reality. If i hadn't had known this is a real story, a real person who lived through that, i would have easily said, it cannot be true. people canno This book is so heartbreaking at so many levels, i cannot name them. words are useless. I thought at one time at Susanne Collins' Hunger games. of course, there is no comparision, i dont even know why my mind came to that. that is pure stupid science fiction, written from somebody who never had to experience war and famine, Ung's book is pure stupid reality. If i hadn't had known this is a real story, a real person who lived through that, i would have easily said, it cannot be true. people cannot be so cruel to each other. unfortunately it is, that is why you can not compare people with animals. animals will never be so pointlessly cruel.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Calzean

    It's hard to rate such a tragic story. Another country gone mad and a young girl lives through hunger, disease, lose of parents, political inanity, homelessness, hopelessness and war. This is a brutal written memoir of a brutal insane period in Cambodia. It's hard to rate such a tragic story. Another country gone mad and a young girl lives through hunger, disease, lose of parents, political inanity, homelessness, hopelessness and war. This is a brutal written memoir of a brutal insane period in Cambodia.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paul Ataua

    The three stars are all for the content. The book gives some insight into how it must have felt to be dragged out of your home and forced into the countryside, to see atrocities around you, to lose close members of your family, and not really understand what was happening or what would happen next. I really did, however, have problems with the narrative choice of the book even if I felt I understood what the writer was trying to achieve. The story is told by a five year old who has a cognitive a The three stars are all for the content. The book gives some insight into how it must have felt to be dragged out of your home and forced into the countryside, to see atrocities around you, to lose close members of your family, and not really understand what was happening or what would happen next. I really did, however, have problems with the narrative choice of the book even if I felt I understood what the writer was trying to achieve. The story is told by a five year old who has a cognitive awareness well beyond her years and a supreme mastery of the English language, and it is told in the present tense. This gnawed at me page after page. I really would have been happier with a past tense account with some explanation of her lack of understanding of events. I am probably alone in my feelings about this, and possibly being unreasonable, but it did have an effect on my reception of the book.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Marco Pavan

    This book is very important to me because it represents the roots of my wife's family. Having visited Cambodia, having seen the pile of bones from the genocide, having heard her family's stories I can't help feeling a vivid pain for all the suffering the Khmer people have to go through because of Pol Pot. A magnitude not second to the holocaust and yet very much unknown to the most. I give this book 4 stars only because at times some passages are hard to read, but i recognize the very powerful a This book is very important to me because it represents the roots of my wife's family. Having visited Cambodia, having seen the pile of bones from the genocide, having heard her family's stories I can't help feeling a vivid pain for all the suffering the Khmer people have to go through because of Pol Pot. A magnitude not second to the holocaust and yet very much unknown to the most. I give this book 4 stars only because at times some passages are hard to read, but i recognize the very powerful and descriptive narratives that painted a clear picture in my head of how much suffering the author had to go through.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Winter Sophia Rose

    Heartbreaking, Encouraging, Gripping & Powerful! An Eye Opening, Exceptional Read! I Loved It!

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kristy K

    Heartbreaking and tragic. Ung's story is one that must be read. Heartbreaking and tragic. Ung's story is one that must be read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    shanghao

    The author's choice of using the present tense narration through her childhood eyes worked wonders for making you feel like you're a witness in the midst of the family's experiences. Despite the Animal Farm-esque brutality, it's still heartening how you could see Loung transform from a spoilt and pampered city girl into a strong, albeit still selfish, fighter with a fierce drive for survival. The restrained expressions of emotions didn't hide the love shared between the family members and some of The author's choice of using the present tense narration through her childhood eyes worked wonders for making you feel like you're a witness in the midst of the family's experiences. Despite the Animal Farm-esque brutality, it's still heartening how you could see Loung transform from a spoilt and pampered city girl into a strong, albeit still selfish, fighter with a fierce drive for survival. The restrained expressions of emotions didn't hide the love shared between the family members and some of the best moments in the book occur during such scenes. And in the way she wrote about her Pa, it's obvious how much she loved him and the words were beautiful to read in their child-like worship of a larger-than-life father. The editing wasn't very good for such a renowned publisher though; you encounter words such as 'loose' instead of 'lose' and 'bare' where 'bear' should be. While such basic errors did not discount the power of the storytelling, they did break the flow of the story, and called the editor's credibility to question. Speaking of credibility, not really a fan of the 'imaginary' sections although I understand that it's comprehensible why the young Loung would have those images running through her mind. The story itself is harrowing, but there were a few parts in which I got the sense of dramatization for its own sake. Coloured by a child's impression of a brutal experience, the narration in a nutshell tells me that rich city people are good and wise; the poor peasants are crass and cruel and are all on power trips. For all I know though, probably that's what really happened and that there really weren't any grey areas. Not much was touched upon in terms of lessons learnt other than that in times of turmoil, it pays to be selfish and violent until the foreigners come to set everything straight; the baddies got punished, the lucky survivors got saved. Still, this is a story that deserves to be read simply because of the scarcity of actual accounts in English from one of the bleakest implosions a nation could have experienced.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    Honestly I don't know how to review this book. I don't think I have ever read a book any more difficult to read due to its graphic nature of such a difficult subject matter. Loung was only 5 years old when her family was forced out of their home. Luckily (if that's the right word choice) her family was fairly well-to-do so they didn't have to be among the people to walk barefoot (at first) since they had a car. They also had possessions they were able to trade for food. Loung had several siblings Honestly I don't know how to review this book. I don't think I have ever read a book any more difficult to read due to its graphic nature of such a difficult subject matter. Loung was only 5 years old when her family was forced out of their home. Luckily (if that's the right word choice) her family was fairly well-to-do so they didn't have to be among the people to walk barefoot (at first) since they had a car. They also had possessions they were able to trade for food. Loung had several siblings and, as one would imagine, they were split up and there were deaths. I can't believe what Loung went through as a child 5-9 years old. The things she did to survive, I can't even imagine a child that young being able to do. I was interested in this book because I taught high school for 25 years, and when I taught multicultural lit and we read books like The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston and were studying Asian countries, a colleague and friend of mine at the high school would come in and talk to the class and show a slideshow. She was about the same age as Loung Ung when her family was forced out of their home during the Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia. She remembers vividly (just as Loung seems to) that time. She told the class heartbreaking stories and spoke about Pol Pot and the genocide of the Cambodian people, so this book held special interest for me. Recommendation: It is definitely a difficult book to read emotionally. There are some graphic parts that I didn't "enjoy" reading, but even the ugly things in life need to be told and remembered so that (hopefully) they aren't repeated. So please pick up a copy and read this important book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This is the story of a young girl's memories of life during the fall of Phnom Penh, and the subsequent takeover of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge with the sadistic Pol Pot as its head. Loung Ung, at 5 years old was forced to travel with her family to the country to work as laborers, mostly in fields to produce food that was then sold to China for guns, while the workers slowly starved to death. In this memoirs she presents her daily life as they try to survive the awful conditions. 25% of Cambodia' This is the story of a young girl's memories of life during the fall of Phnom Penh, and the subsequent takeover of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge with the sadistic Pol Pot as its head. Loung Ung, at 5 years old was forced to travel with her family to the country to work as laborers, mostly in fields to produce food that was then sold to China for guns, while the workers slowly starved to death. In this memoirs she presents her daily life as they try to survive the awful conditions. 25% of Cambodia's Population die from starvation or outright execution during the revolution. This is a book that should be read alongside books on Rwanda, the Nazi Holocaust, and Stalin's treatment of Ukraine (and really all of his people).

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