First They Killed My Father A Daughter of Cambodia


First They Killed My Father A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers 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 spiritOne 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 destroyedHarrowing 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 3 starsThis 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 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 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 autobiographical 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 foreverI 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 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 airThe pictures informational plaues 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 infamous 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 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 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 uick 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 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 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 fortuneIt 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

  • Paperback
  • 238 pages
  • First They Killed My Father A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
  • Loung Ung
  • English
  • 20 April 2014
  • 9780060856267

About the Author: Loung Ung

An author lecturer and activist Loung Ung has advocated for euality human rights and justice in her native land and worldwide for than fifteen years Ung lives in Cleveland Ohio with her husband


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