First They Killed My Father

By Loung Ung
This powerful narrative describes the true experiences of a child who suffers at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. When Loung is five-years-old the regime takes Phnom Penh, and she and her family are forced to flee into the countryside where they are vigilant in keeping their middle-class past secret. Eventually her father is taken away by soldiers, ostensibly to help fix an ox cart: he never returns. Other members of Loung’s family suffer similar fates, while, under incredible circumstances, some of them manage to survive near-starvation until the Vietnamese arrive to liberate them. Loung, her brother and sister-in-law risk death yet again to escape to Vietnam and then Thailand, where they are given passage to the US. This book is shocking in its very simple, even dispassionate descriptions of horrific events, particularly realising that they are the memories of a child. What this book makes very clear is that the genocide of up to two million Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge is not the surprising fact: given their utter brutality, the amazing fact is that anybody managed to survive at all.

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