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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)

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  13,091 ratings  ·  1,316 reviews
Soon to be a major film, co-written and directed by Angelina Jolie Pitt

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 being cheeky to her parents.

When Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into Phnom Penh in April
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 17th 2001 by Mainstream Publishing (first published 2000)
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Jun 28, 2008 Apple rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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

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

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?
This was a heart-breaking memoir. It was very difficult to read . . . but imagine how much harder it was to live it.
Oct 26, 2008 Kathi rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sandra Ottinger
Recommended to Kathi by: Saw it on B&
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
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
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
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
Betty Ho
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
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
Oct 21, 2008 Marlena rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jul 02, 2007 Basham! rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 27, 2007 Spring rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
This memoir by Loung Ung tells the tale of her childhood in Cambodia during the takeover of the Khmer Rouge. She aptly presents herself as a child narrator, and so the horror and confusion that takes place around her are somewhat subdued as the narrator struggles to understand what is happening to her and why. It’s no surprise that she turns to anger to help her survive.

At the beginning of each chapter she gives the reader a date. April 1975. I couldn’t help but think what I was doing at that ti
Eric Horvath
I read this book in Cambodia. I bought it at a corner store outside of the Tuol Sleng Museum, a former high school that the Khmer Rouge turned into a torture site in the late 1970s. Ms. Ung's story is deeply disturbing (and probably not too unusual) and her memoir does a good job keeping its unsavory details palatable.

The flow of the narrative, as well as the paucity of factual evidence, makes it difficult to put down. The book is a great jumping-off point for those looking to take their first
Millions of Cambodians suffered from all kinds of atrocities - the American bombings, displacement,starvation, communist killings, genocide, and other such violence during the 70s Specifically during the time of Khmer Rouge (Pol Pot Regime), 1975-1979.

This book is a chilling, deeply touching, eye-opening and educational narrative of an American Cambodian woman who was a child during the Khmer Rouge (Pol Pot Regime).

In response to this book (one of the first recollections of the regime from a s
Chris  McCluskie
An amazing story about a young child's experiences of the horrific atrocities that took place during the reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. This story recounts the brutally violent acts undertaken by Cambodians against Cambodians and the millions who lost their lives as a result. This book is a must-read for anyone who is curious about or unaware of the genocide that took place in Cambodia during the 1970s at the hands of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge soldiers. It's been a long, long time since a boo ...more
Nicky Robinson
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
Such a harrowing real life story of a family who have experienced the Pol Pot regime first hand. I read this book a day before I arrived in Cambodia as I found it in a second hand book shop in Thailand. I could not put it down. It made travelling through Cambodia so much more of a difference experience as I could literally feel the horrors that she went through. This book will be forever with me.
Paras Allana
We have all heard that history is written by winners but memoirs are of survivors of winners. they tell us pain and haunting of the time but very well, they have won, they are living now, isn't that a joy? Not really. A war, a conflict, leaves marks on our beings and shapes who we become.

Loung Ung's story is same in the manner of it describing many haunts and hatred and surviving skills that people who have never lived in an area which has not been in conflict can not even imagine. yet, it is di
One of those "I know I have things to do but I can't put this book down" books! Tragedy described from a child's perspective that can be multiplied untold numbers of times from Cambodia to Darfur to other places where evil reigns, darkness is twenty-four hours a day, and most people either don't know or don't care...and I am afraid it is more the latter. Read this book and you will identify with William Wilberforce who said, "now that you have heard (read) this you may turn and look the other wa ...more
First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

This is the most painful and powerful book I have ever read and it permanently changed my views towards government power. 1984 was horrifying but it can't compare to the sorrow, fear and anger you will feel when reading about real people rather than fictional characters.

My fear of large governments with limitless powers started in high school while I was reading this first person account from a little girl named Loung Ung who survived
Many years ago I saw a video clip on TV. I still remember it clearly because it upset and horrified me. A camera man in a country suffering from famine was in a vehicle that drove by a pile of corpses. On the top of the pile was a mother holding a child. She was emaciated from starvation and she appeared to be dead, grasping her baby. But as he drove by.... her eyes moved, and he captured it on film. She wasn't dead.

I was young and naive and my first reaction was horror that the camera man didn'
Fascinating memoir of a survivor of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot's regime. Made all the more poignant because, growing up, my best friend's family had come over from Cambodia, sponsored by our church, so it's very interesting to read about what life was like over there during that volatile time.

Well-written and engaging. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in these types of stories.
A well written account of a horrible period of history. A personal account of a girl who suffered the loss of much of her family and her own childhood.

It took me a long time to decide to read this book. I knew enough of the Khmer Rouge period of Cambodia to know the atrocities I would find inside it. The importance of reading these types of accounts is to gain an understanding of how people survive under these conditions and to gain some insight into how others can do such terrible things.

Nazi G
Michael Andersen-Andrade
Just finished reading this book while sitting in a cafe in Battambong, Cambodia. I look up and see the gentle, sweet, smiling Cambodian people around me and I wonder how such horrors could have been perpetrated by and against them. When the refugees in the newly liberated camp tie up the captured Khmer Rouge soldier and execute him with their bare hands I want to help them smash his skull in. I was in my twenties during the Khmer Rouge era, and when I see people in the streets of Cambodia who ar ...more
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
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Around the World ...: Sho recommends: First They Killed My Father 9 17 Sep 06, 2011 01:22AM  
  • When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge
  • Stay Alive, My Son
  • Survival in the Killing Fields
  • Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields: Memoirs by Survivors
  • From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey
  • Voices from S-21: Terror and History in Pol Pot's Secret Prison
  • When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace
  • The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine
  • An Ordinary Man: An Autobiography
  • The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur
  • A Dragon Apparent: Travels in Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam
  • The Lost Executioner: A Journey to the Heart of the Killing Fields
  • The Gate
  • Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
  • The Girl in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc, the Photograph, and the Vietnam War
  • The Devil Came on Horseback: Bearing Witness to the Genocide in Darfur
  • Cambodia's Curse: The Modern History of a Troubled Land
  • The Unwanted: A Memoir of Childhood
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
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 10 Common Core Essentials: Nonfiction Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis/Knockdown/As Nature Made Him/First They Killed My Father (Today's Best Nonfiction, Vol. 4, 2000)

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“I think how the world is still somehow beautiful even when I feel no joy at being alive within it. ” 72 likes
“In my heart I know the truth, but my mind cannot accept the reality of what this all means.” 13 likes
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