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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of…
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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (original 2001; edition 2006)

by Loung Ung

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Member:ladybug74
Title:First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
Authors:Loung Ung
Info:Harper Perennial (2006), Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:memoir

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First they killed my father : a daughter of Cambodia remembers by Loung Ung (2001)

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English (36)  German (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (39)
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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung Even with a title like that, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I'm not normally one for human strife stories, but I was compelled. The first time I saw the title, while searching for books for the Read Harder Challenge, I just had to read it. This is not your typical human strife story. 
There was something special and horrifying about reading of the Cambodian genocide through the eyes of a child, especially a child this young. The writing in the beginning took me a minute to get into. I have to wonder if it was simply the way that Ung recalls life from before the Khmer Rouge because it gets more detailed and emotional as her story progresses. There were a few other parts that felt distant like the beginning, like she was covering it just to not have gaps in the timeline of her story. The vivid memories are captivating and haunting.
Ung explains the horrors of this genocide and the aftermath as she experienced them as a five year old, so the foresight and worry for the future that adults maintain, the planning and attempts to keep control are absent. She lives one day at a time, trying to understand the world as it is then presented, hoping for the best, mentally preparing for the worst that she can, but inevitably going through worse than she could think of. The uncertainty and ignorance of her initial displacement made the beginning that much more heartbreaking.
My son happens to be five years old right now too and I thought about how I could explain to him something like that happening, how I could deal with knowing everything that was going on and dealing with his naivete, with whining as we walked for days because he didn't get it. I don't think I could do it, but they probably didn't think so before they had to do it either.
I was impressed with her mother. For as much as Ung doesn't appreciate her mother's strength in the beginning, I found her incredible. I was grateful that she maintained the tone through these parts and didn't look back with a changed mind. She let the reader experience her frustration with her mother as it took place, as she did with everything else. Her father was even more impressive. In fact, her entire family had more strength and perseverance than I had anticipated. I suppose it is a testament to the human ability to endure and to hope in the face of great horrors. 
This book tore my heart out. It is a hard lesson in just how much suffering there is in the world and just how ignorant we can be of it, how adept we are at ignoring it. That it was real, not only for this family but for many others, made it so much worse. I'm not sure if it was fortunate for my reading experience that I knew relatively little about the Cambodian genocide before reading this book. I had only ever heard of Pol Pot and the landmine problem. I had heard the name Pol Pot in my childhood and his name was associated with Hitler and other horrible people, but I never really had specifics. The landmine problem I learned from Angelina Jolie's: Notes from My Travels where she recounts her visit to Cambodia. So I went into this book ignorant of the scope of the strife involved. 
I fully intend on reading the other two books of the series, Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind and Lulu in the Sky: A Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing, and Double Happiness. It also inspired me to finally read The Diary of a Young Girl, which I had been actively avoiding. I learned too much about that one and never wanted to dive into the tragedy of it. I realize from reading this that it's not about that, not really.
Of course, there's more to Loung Ung's life than her past and her books. She is still an activist, please visit her activism page here. Though there is no specific release date, Angelina Jolie-Pitt has been working on Netflix movie of the book as well. You can find details here. She is also a contributor to the campaign, Girl Rising. Ung writes the story of Sokha, which is then narrated by Alicia Keys for the documentary by the same name, For details on the documentary, which was released in 2013, visit here. For details on Ung's involvement, visit here. 
 
There is more to women and our experiences than those popularized in the US. Sometimes it can be hard to see the activism that is still necessary in other parts of the world, or the female experience outside of our comfortable homes. Despite the opinions of naysayers, feminism is a huge part of the human rights struggle in many parts of the world, though not necessarily by name but deed. While this is a book I'd recommend to anyone looking for non-fiction, it is particularly important for feminists to read about the lives of women, for us to understand and support each other. 
Have you read First They Killed My Father? What did you think?  ( )
  Calavari | Jun 7, 2016 |
The author's true account of her life as a child when her hometown of Phnom Penh falls to the Khmer Rouge. Five-year-old Loung and her family are middle class and educated but these must be hidden as the family escapes their home along with the rest of the town. They flee to escape the Khmer Rouge soldiers, first staying with uncles in the country and then moving on when things get too dangerous. Loung's father is taken away by the soldiers; the family never sees him again. Family members are separated as the children are sent to work camps; starvation, cruelty and death dog them everywhere. The war experience hardens little Loung; intense hatred for Pol Pot and his soldiers keeps her alive. After four years, the Vietnamese move into Cambodia and push out the Khmer. Loung is reunited with her surviving siblings at a refugee camp. At book's end, she and older brother Meng and his wife gain sponsorship to go to America. They hope to be reunited with their siblings in five years.
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
I had no idea what life was like under the rule of Pol Pot. This was a very sad, but fascinating life story. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
I had no idea what life was like under the rule of Pol Pot. This was a very sad, but fascinating life story. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
I found this to be a startlingly powerful memoir of Ms Ung's childhood experiences. Sadly I went in knowlng precious little about the atrocities the people suffered under the Khmer Rouge, but this book has inspired me to remedy that.

I enjoyed the present tense telling of the story, it made me feel like I was along for the ride. This book has stayed with me, and given me new perspectives on refugees. ( )
  flyheatherfly | May 27, 2015 |
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Epigraph
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.
Dedication
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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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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.
Quotations
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 llove in the face of unspeakable brutality.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060856262, Paperback)

Written in the present tense, First They Killed My Father will put you right in the midst of the action--action you'll wish had never happened. It's a tough read, but definitely a worthwhile one, and the author's personality and strength shine through on every page. Covering the years from 1975 to 1979, the story moves from the deaths of multiple family members to the forced separation of the survivors, leading ultimately to the reuniting of much of the family, followed by marriages and immigrations. The brutality seems unending--beatings, starvation, attempted rape, mental cruelty--and yet the narrator (a young girl) never stops fighting for escape and survival. Sad and courageous, her life and the lives of her young siblings provide quite a powerful example of how war can so deeply affect children--especially a war in which they are trained to be an integral part of the armed forces. For anyone interested in Cambodia's recent history, this book shares a valuable personal view of events. --Jill Lightner

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:08 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Loung Ung, one of seven children of a high-ranking government official in Phnom Penh, tells of her experiences after her family was forced to flee from Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army, discussing her training as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, and telling of how her surviving siblings were eventually reunited.… (more)

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