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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembersby Loung Ung
Synopses & Reviews
From a childhood survivor of Cambodia's brutal Pol Pot regime comes an unforgettable narrative of war crimes and desperate actions, the unnerving strength of a small girl and her family, and their triumph of spirit.
Until the age of five, Lounge Ung lived in Phnom Penh, one of seven children of a high-ranking government official. She was a precocious child who loved the open city markets, fried crickets, chicken fights, and sassing her parents. While her beautiful mother worried that Loung was a troublemaker--that she stomped around like a thirsty cow--her beloved father knew Lounge was a clever girl.
When Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into Phnom Penh in April 1975, Ung's family fled their home and moved from village to village to hide their identity, their education, their former life of privilege. Eventually, the family dispersed in order to survive.
Because Lounge was resilient and determined, she was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, while other siblings were sent to labor camps. As the Vietnamese penetrated Cambodia, destroying the Khmer Rouge, Loung and her surviving siblings were slowly reunited.
Bolstered by the shocking bravery of one brother, the vision of the others--and sustained be her sister's gentle kindness amid brutality--Loung forged on to create for herself a courageous new life.
"This is a harrowing, compelling story. Evoking a child's voice and viewpoint, Ung has written a book filled with vivid and unforgettable details. I lost a night's sleep to this book because I literally could not put it down, and even when I finally did, I lost another night's sleep just from the sheer, echoing power of it." Lucy Grealy, author of Autobiography of a Face
"This book left me gasping for air. Loung Ung plunges her readers into a Kafkaesque world her childhood robbed by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge and forces them to experience the mass murder, starvation and disease that claimed half her beloved family. In the end, the horror of the Cambodian genocide is matched only by the author's indomitable spirit." Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking
"Despite the tragedy all around her, this scrappy kid struggles for life and beats the odds. I thought young Ung's story would make me sad. But this spunky child warrior carried me with her in her courageous quest for life. Reading these pages has strengthened me in my own struggle to disarm the powers of violence in this world." Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ, author of Dead Man Walking
"In this gripping narrative Loung Ung describes the unfathomable evil that engulfed Cambodia during her childhood, the courage that enabled her family to survive, and the determination that has made her an eloquent voice for peace and justice in Cambodia. It is a tour de force that strengthens our resolve to prevent and punish crimes against humanity." U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, congressional leader on human rights and a global ban on landmines
Until the age of five, Loung Ung lived in Phnom Penh, one of seven children of a high-ranking government official.She was a precocious child who loved the open city markets, fried crickets, chicken fights, and sassing her parents. When Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into Phnom Penh in April 1975, Ung's family was forced to flee their home and hide their previous life of privilege. Eventually, they dispersed in order to survive. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans while her other siblings were sent to labor camps. Only after the Vietnamese destroyed the Khmer Rouge were Loung and her surviving siblings slowly reunited.
Bolstered by the shocking bravery of one brother and sustained by her sister's gentle kindness amid brutality, Loung forged ahead to create a courageous new life. Harrowing yet hopeful, insightful and compelling, this family's story is truly unforgettable.
About the Author
Loung Ung is a survivor of the brutal Pol Pot regime in Cambodia in the 1970s. She has a bachelor's degree in political science, and is National Spokesperson for "Campaign for a Landmine Free World," a program of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. VVAF founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines which was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. Ung lectures extensively throughout the United States and appears regularly in the media.
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