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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers (Daughter of Cambodia #1)

4.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  15,867 Ratings  ·  1,530 Reviews
Chronicles the brutality of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, from the author's forced ''evacuation'' of Phnom Penh in 1975 to her family's subsequent movements from town to town and eventual separation.
Paperback, 238 pages
Published April 4th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published 2000)
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Jessica Kalenik Lounge nearly starves, loses multiple family members through the re-education attempts under the Khmer Rouge regime

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apple
Jun 28, 2008 Apple rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
There are some things left unlearned from history books. You can read about the Cambodian genocide from many other sources that will explain the facts and statistics in the traditional sterile style that historic texts usually take. You can actually witness the places and things that history has left behind. And then, you can dive into personal accounts of history; how humanity struggles to survive during some of its darkest hours.
While I am usually a sucker for auto/biographical works for the
...more
Kate
May 11, 2010 Kate rated it it was amazing
On a recent trip to Cambodia I got to witness it's rich culture, lush landscapes and delicious, delicious food. At every turn I also saw the remnants of a painful past.I spent a hot afternoon walking through the Tuel Sleng Genocide Museum, having my breath taken away as I walked from room to room, each worse than the last. In one section of the former prison, I walked into a hastily made brick cell and felt so instantly claustrophobic I had to run out into the open air.The pictures, informationa ...more
 Carol ♔ Type, Oh Queen! ♔
I visited SE Asia this year & visiting S-21 prison & the Killing Fields moved me more than anything else I saw.

& this book moved me more than anything else I read this year.

No child should suffer what Loung does and she doesn't flinch from telling things that show her in a less than favourable light - but if she hadn't been an extremely tough five year old, she would never have survived (view spoiler)
...more
Rebecca
Feb 04, 2016 Rebecca rated it liked it
I feel the need to explain why I ended up giving this one three stars. I expected to come out of this with no less than a four star review. Ung's suffering under the Khmer Rouge is long and both physically and mentally painful. I learned a lot about the Cambodian Genocide (at least from the point of view of a child). I always wanted to keep reading and was invested in her and her family's story. That being said, the pacing had me all over the place and the writing was... okay.

I felt a little lo
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Mandy
Mar 13, 2009 Mandy rated it it was amazing

On Monday I finished reading First They Killed My Father which is the autobiographical story of a young girl's experiences during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. I've read a lot of books like this and I usually find them uplifting but this book just made me sad. In Rwanda, you see people's incredible resilience and determination to overcome the prejudices of the past. When I read the story of the boy solider, A Long Way Gone, I was heartened by the knowledge that he had escaped that life and

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Kathi
Oct 26, 2008 Kathi rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Sandra Ottinger
Recommended to Kathi by: Saw it on B&N.com
I just finished reading this book - another one I had a hard time putting down - I read it in 3 days. I learned so much from this memoir which takes place, starting in April 1975 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. At this point the Cambodian Civil War has not quite taken hold. The narrator of the story is a 5 year old girl, the 2nd to youngest in a family of 7 children. She comes from a rather well-off, very loving middle-class family who live in the capital of Cambodia; Phenom Penh. The 5 year old takes ...more
Chrissie
This is a very difficult book to read. It is not eloquently written, but how do you write about the Khmer Rouge and what they did to the Cambodian people April 1975-1980 eloquently? One traumatic event after the other, from the first to the last page. Reading it I simply wanted to get to the end. I am not about to questions any of that written here……. I do think this book should be read. How do you rate a book like this?
Anastasia
Nov 24, 2007 Anastasia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a heart-breaking memoir. It was very difficult to read . . . but imagine how much harder it was to live it.
chucklesthescot
This was a horrific story of the terror and violence that the Khmer Rouge inflicted on the innocent people of Cambodia. Loung is the daughter of a high ranking government official, and the very type of family that the Khmer Rouge despise. The family tree to flee, pretending to be poor farmers, but are eventually imprisoned in a camp. The camp hardships and fear take their toll on the family and things get worse when they are all gradually separated into different camps, not knowing if they will ...more
Anu
Mar 10, 2008 Anu rated it really liked it
2/6/08
Great book. This is the first book I've read by Loung Ung and so far I'm not a big fan of her writing style (it seems predictable and borrowed). But.. the book is excellent, mostly because it is a five-year-old's perspective on living and dying during Pol Pot's cleansing project in Cambodia. It's an interesting perspective because it is based on a mix of innocence, confusion, blind trust, fear, an innate need for self-preservation and the amazing ability that children have to sense and und
...more
Annie
Mar 10, 2008 Annie rated it it was amazing
I read this book in prepartion to our trip to Cambodia in April. I would have read it anyway, however, because I love depressing autobiographies. This one was far different than any other I have ever read being that it was from a child's perspective. It retold her unbelievable story of escaping the killing fields during Pol Pot's reign with the Khmer Rouge. I think everyone in my generation needs to read this book. Many people my age do not even know Pol Pot's name, moreless that he killed over ...more
Winter Sophia Rose
Dec 19, 2015 Winter Sophia Rose rated it it was amazing
Heartbreaking, Encouraging, Gripping & Powerful! An Eye Opening, Exceptional Read! I Loved It!
❆ Crystal ❆
Jan 25, 2016 ❆ Crystal ❆ rated it really liked it
4 stars. This is an event in history that I never knew about. In 1975 The Khmer Rouge overthrew the government and over the next 4 years killed an estimated 2,000,000 Cambodians by murder, torture, and starvation. Loung was age 5 when this began with her family consisting of Ma, Pa and 6 brothers and sisters ranging in age of 3 to 18. Loung tells this heart-breaking story through the eyes of a 5 year-old who is trying to understand what is happening and why. This is a story of her amazing surviv ...more
Betty Ho
Jul 01, 2013 Betty Ho rated it really liked it
Very often, when people are asked to recall genocides in 20th century, Jews Holocaust, Stalin's purge, Rwanda or the Cultural Revolution are the very first things come to mind. People rarely remember the Cambodia genocide (or they have never heard of) as it was always overshadowed by the Vietnam war with no or little media coverage. However, it doesn't mean this is any less painful. I admire Loung Ung for her dedication on telling the world what happened under the rule of Khmer Rogue.

I'm glad t
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Basham!
Jul 02, 2007 Basham! rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people visiting Cambodia to study the Khmer Rouge atrocities
I, literally, abandoned this book half-way through. I may not be an expert on good prose but I definitely recognize when I am NOT privy to such. This novel rests on the fact that it is an account of real events. A people's version of one of the "greatest-atrocities-of-the-twentieth-century." I don't intend to demean the subject matter here, but a lot of this book regurgitates, unquestioningly, a textbook understanding of the Khmer Rouge. The author blantly inserts generic socio-political backsto ...more
Nicky Robinson
Jun 19, 2013 Nicky Robinson rated it it was amazing
This book left me feeling more than a little haunted and reflective. I read this book while on the slow boat from Thailand into Laos, in preparation for my trip down to Cambodia in a couple of weeks time. Reading a first hand account of the atrocities that occurred under the Khmer Rouge in our lifetime was sobering. I had considered myself aware of the nature of Khmer Rouge regime, and knew on a superficial level what happened, but this book was a genuine eye opener on the impact on real familie ...more
Michelle
May 17, 2011 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A memoir by Loung Ung who was a small child in Cambodia in Pol Pot's Khmer Rough. She tells her story from being a five-year-old living a wonderful life to overnight being sent to work camps, starvation, loss of family members. This took place when I was in middle school, and I was totally oblivious to things happening in other parts of the world. What an eye-opener to read of the struggle to live day by day, hour by hour. I pulled up her website and read more about her life and the spokeperson ...more
Jimmy
Sep 09, 2015 Jimmy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war
Loung Ung is now a national spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine Free World, a program of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. In this book, she tells of her story of escape from the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. In just a matter of a few years, the Cambodian communists managed to kill off about three million of their own people by either direct or indirect means. Ung was five years old when the story began. Her father was a government official. The entire city of Phnom Penh was for ...more
♥ Marlene♥


What follows is an update that I wrote yesterday after completing half of the book. Apparently my common sense was not working and no alarm bells were ringing that all was not what it seems. That this was not all nonfiction but alas a lot of fiction and even lies! But one day later I know better.

17 feb 2016 (51%)
I'm 51% done with First They Killed My: and I must say it is very well written which i did not expect. The author managed to pull me in and that is what is my desire. To be pulled in. ;
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Marlena
Oct 21, 2008 Marlena rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everybody
When reading First They Killed My Father, by Loung Ung, the audience is exposed to a compelling book filled with adventure and tragedy. It is about a girl who lives a fairly comfortable life in Phnom Penh with her parents and siblings. When the Khmer Rouge takes over Cambodia, her family is forced to flee into separate labor camps. As the story progresses, it is startling to comprehend that the book is actually a memoir. This is her story.
This book not only gives insight into Loung’s personal
...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
I feel bad I didn't love this book--maybe I've been jaded by too many tales of misery and atrocity. Or maybe it's just reading this so soon after Egger's What is the What about Sudan or for that matter after Vaddey's The Shadow of the Banyan, also about this period, this book has a lot to live up to. I admit I'm someone who finds it hard to just go with the flow of the practice of memoirs written with the immediacy of a novel. I just don't find it credible--especially in this case where it's wri ...more
Spring
Mar 27, 2007 Spring rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
This is one of the most powerful books I've read. It's an autobiography of a young girl and her family during the oppressive Pol Pot regime. I traveled to Cambodia last year with only a faint idea of what the Khmer Rouge was and of what actually happened in that country in the late 1970s. Loung Ung's story is a story is one of survival. If it weren't, it would be too heartbreaking to bear.

Under Pol Pot, people were forced to leave their homes in the cities and move into the countryside where the
...more
Karen
Nov 27, 2015 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-the-world
This is the story of a young girl's memories of life during the fall of Phnom Penh, and the subsequent takeover of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge with the sadistic Pol Pot as its head. Loung Ung, at 5 years old was forced to travel with her family to the country to work as laborers, mostly in fields to produce food that was then sold to China for guns, while the workers slowly starved to death. In this memoirs she presents her daily life as they try to survive the awful conditions. 25% of Cambodia' ...more
 Δx Δp ≥ ½ ħ
Sep 21, 2015 Δx Δp ≥ ½ ħ rated it really liked it
Recommended to Δx Δp ≥ ½ ħ by: Felly
Review-nya jadi curhat dan cerpen ngelantur di sini, hehe
https://melquiadescaravan.wordpress.c...

cerpen part 2
https://melquiadescaravan.wordpress.c...

PS: tengkyu Fel, untuk hibahan bukunya.
Maurício Linhares
Nov 27, 2015 Maurício Linhares rated it it was amazing
Reading something like this in Thanksgiving, even though I've just moved to America, is kind of fitting. It provides some perspective on what we should be thankful for in our lives, the small things we all take for granted and that could be taken away from us in a horrible nightmare like the on Luong had to endure. As much as life in one of the poorest states in Brazil isn't easy, the suffering that's seen in here is so alien it's hard to even imagine someone could actually go through all this a ...more
Giridharan Karunagaran
This book is so commonplace at each and every bookshop, side alley, and tourist trap in Siem Reap, Cambodia. After the first three or four times the book was shoved in front of my face on my trip to Cambodia, I could no longer fetter my curiosity. (I purchased the book for 3$ USD but later found out at the duty free shops at Siem Reap Airport that the original costs around 15$ USD.)

Anyone travelling to Cambodia is most certainly not looking for a party. One goes there to salve that in-born need
...more
Eleanor Dirlik
Apr 14, 2016 Eleanor Dirlik rated it really liked it
First They Killed My Father is an autobiography. It is about Loung’s (author of the book) story during the evacuation in Phnom Penh to Cambodia. Families got evacuated because of the Khmer Rouge, and this incident started in 1975. When this event happened she was 5 and her family and education were affected. First They Killed My Father reminds me of the book I am currently reading which is Dust and Eden. Both books are autobiographical and the author writes about their experience and perspectiv ...more
Monika Mey
Jan 13, 2016 Monika Mey rated it it was amazing
Being a Cambodian, I have heard, read and watched endless stories about the Khmer Rouge from various sources. I have to admit that I actually didn't expect much from the book at first because I thought maybe it was just another book describing about how one and her family had suffered during the Khmer Rouge just like the rest. But no. Hell no! I was dead wrong.

This story from a 5-year-old girl's perspective can still make wrench my heart despite me already familiar with most of the situations th
...more
Anita Fajita Pita
Aug 01, 2016 Anita Fajita Pita rated it it was amazing
This is not my favorite book, but there's no way to read it and experience it and not give it five stars.

"The first victims are always the children."

This should absolutely be required reading. Everyone should know and understand the consequences of war. I'm not some hippy peace lover (I mean, maybe I am) but there is nothing to hide behind when you stare the realities of human suffering in the face.

There is no voice of hope or redemption. Just a small voice of undisguised truth. Ugly, scared, s
...more
sanny
Jul 30, 2016 sanny rated it liked it
The author's choice of using the present tense narration through her childhood eyes worked wonders for making you feel like you're a witness in the midst of the family's experiences.

Despite the Animal Farm-esque brutality, it's still heartening how you could see Loung transform from a spoilt and pampered city girl into a strong, albeit still selfish, fighter with a fierce drive for survival. The restrained expressions of emotions didn't hide the love shared between the family members and some of
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • Stay Alive, My Son
  • When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge
  • Survival in the Killing Fields
  • Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors
  • When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace
  • The Gate
  • The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine
  • From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey
  • The Lost Executioner: A Journey to the Heart of the Killing Fields
  • Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison
  • The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph, and the Vietnam War
  • Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam
  • A Dragon Apparent: Travels in Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam
  • An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography
  • Do They Hear You When You Cry
  • The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power, and Genocide in Cambodia Under the Khmer Rouge, 1975-79
  • War Child: A Child Soldier's Story
  • When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution
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An author, lecturer, and activist, Loung Ung has advocated for equality, human rights, and justice in her native land and worldwide for more than fifteen years. Ung lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband.
More about Loung Ung...

Other Books in the Series

Daughter of Cambodia (3 books)
  • Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind
  • Lulu in the Sky: A Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing, and Double Happiness

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“I think how the world is still somehow beautiful even when I feel no joy at being alive within it. ” 81 likes
“In my heart I know the truth, but my mind cannot accept the reality of what this all means.” 16 likes
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