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

by Loung Ung

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1,758547,464 (4.05)59
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.… (more)
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English (50)  German (2)  Dutch (2)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
Very powerful story. Definitely on my list of books you must read in your lifetime. ( )
  elisalr22 | Jul 11, 2021 |
This book is honest and heartbreaking, even more so because it is written from the raw perspective of a child. The author doesn't try to rationalize or gloss over any of the feelings or thoughts she had as a child, and it makes this book all the more real.

For me, this is a 'must read', because we all need to educate ourselves on the different dictatorships that have plagued so many countries around the globe in the past - and those who still do so today. We need to learn about the past to be better equipped to prevent such awful things from ever happening again.

A note on the audiobook:
The production is great, but I was a bit confused because there are two or three chapters in the book where the author describes events she wasn't present for. Sometimes they were described to her later, sometimes she imagines what might have happened. In the audiobook, those chapters are treated just like all the others, which confused me, because it was an element of fiction in a non-fiction autobiography. But I was told that in the book or e-book, those chapters are clearly marked, so that's just an audiobook problem. ( )
  booksandliquids | May 3, 2021 |
What a well-delivered memoir. The author wisely chooses the the child's first person perspective, which made the narrative really personal and gripping.

I read this in Cambodia, after having visited a few killing fields, the S21 prison, and having taught a new generation of Cambodian students. The tragic history still lives to some extent throughout the country. ( )
  bsmashers | Aug 1, 2020 |
First They Killed My Father is Loung Ung's memoir of living through the rise of the Khmer Rouge regime as a very young child—she was just five years old when the Khmer Rouge seized Phnom Penh. This gives the book both its harrowing intensity—it's appalling to think of a small child having to face such brutality—and its weakness.

Ung tries to write both as a five-year-old and with the benefit of hindsight, and the resulting narrative voice is an uneasy amalgam of these two perspectives. I have little reason to doubt the emotional truth of Ung's testimony or to deny the force of the trauma she conveys, but the historian in me is uneasy at the dialogue/recollections of internal monologues presented as if verbatim.

Equally, Ung presents her beloved father, Seng Im Ung, as an almost superheroic figure, full of wisdom and love—a perspective which makes perfect sense coming from a daughter who never got to know him as a grown up. Yet there is no reflection at all on the fact that Ung was born into a family which enjoyed a standard of living far above that of most Cambodians because Seng Im Ung was an officer in the corrupt authoritarian Lon Nol regime.

That fact does not of course justify what happened to the Ung family—or to the more than million people who died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime—but it does complicate what might otherwise be a binary story. But it does underscore the fact that, particularly for those of us in the West who may know shamefully little of the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge (and I count myself among that number), First They Killed My Father may be a compelling place to begin learning about this moment in Cambodian history, but not the best place to stop. ( )
  siriaeve | Sep 22, 2019 |
RGG: Intense, detailed personal history of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Not a quick read
  rgruberhighschool | Feb 20, 2019 |
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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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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.
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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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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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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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