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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (2001)

de Loung Ung

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2,213607,231 (4.06)69
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.… (mais)
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I was in Cambodia a few months ago. I wish I had read this book before. In any case, it's amazing how resilient human beings can be. It's an amazing country, people are happy despite being poor.
The book is tough, extremely tough. I had to read a different book before sleeping, otherwise I would have nightmares. ( )
  SergioRuiz | Apr 30, 2024 |
Five year old Loung Ung’s life in Phnom Penh was almost perfect. Her father was an officer for the ruling regime and she and her family enjoyed a life of privilege.

Until the Khmer Rouge took over and their world was turned upside down. Everyone living in the cities was forced to go the country villages for agrarian work.

Even a hint of being a member of the previous regime was enough to doom one and one’s family to death. In addition, Loung’s mother was Chinese and and so the family fell under the Khmer Rouge's ethnic cleansing of non-Cambodians and their mixed children. After a hardship filled trek with little food and water, they arrived at a small village where an uncle lived and were taken in. As the revolution continued, the political situation changed from lionizing the Khmer Rouge to becoming a cult lionizing the brutal dictator.

Being in a small village was not enough to save them, especially as the long time villages and the 'new people' were kept separately with the new people being treated more harshly. Eventually, the family's secret was betrayed and as the title says 'first they killed my father.'

Of the genocide itself, Wikipedia states “…Mass killings of perceived government opponents, coupled with malnutrition and poor medical care, killed between 1.5 and 2 million people, approximately a quarter of Cambodia's population…..”

Heartbreaking to read, this is an important look at a regime that was little known to the west when the genocide was occurring. ( )
  streamsong | Sep 13, 2023 |
Lots of books have been written about the horrors of war but not many have been written from a child's point of view. That's what makes this memoir by Loung Ung so incredibly harrowing. Granted, she wrote this book as an adult, and there are observations made that I don't think any 5 year old would have to maturity level to recognize. But overall, the narration from the child's point feels very genuine clearly demonstrates just how sad it is that we still live in a world where children have to witness atrocities no one should have to witness. ( )
  kevinkevbo | Jul 14, 2023 |
Well written and incredibly hard to read in terms of the events that happened. ( )
  kburne1 | Aug 13, 2022 |
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.
( )
  mattorsara | Aug 11, 2022 |
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Fronm 1975-1979-through execution, starvation, disease, and forced labor-the Khmer Rouge systematically killed an estimated two million Cambodians, almost a fourth of the country's population. This is a story of survival: my own story mirrors that of millions of Cambodians. If you had been living in Cambodia during this period, this would be your story too.
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In memory of the two million people who perished under the Khmer Rouge regime. This book is dedicated to my father, Ung; Seng Im, who always believed in me; my mother, Ung; Ay Choungm who always loved me. To my sisters Keav, Chou, and Geak because sisters are forever; my brother Kim, who taught me about courage; my brother Khouy, for contributing more than one hundred pages of our family history and details of our lives under the Khmer Rouge, many of which I incorporated into this book; to my brother Meng and sister-in-law Eang Muy Tan, who raised me (quite well) in America.
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Phnom Penh City erwacht früh, um die kühle Morgenbrise zu nutzen, bevor die Sonne durch den Dunst bricht und die Hitze in das Land einfällt.
Phnom Penh city wakes early to take advantage of the cool morning breeze before the sun breaks through the haze and invades the country with sweltering heat.
[Epilogue] I am almost home.
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Phnom Penh city wakes early to take advantage of the cool morning breeze before the sun breaks through the haze and invades the country with sweltering heat.
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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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