Chrissie's Reviews > First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
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Jan 13, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: cambodia, history, bio, text-checked, 2012-read
Read from September 25 to 26, 2012

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?
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01/03 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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Chrissie You have not rated it. I have had this book sitting on my shelves for way too long.


message 2: by Kim (new)

Kim I remember reading this book when it was first published. A very bleak tale. I had some issues with aspects of the ending, as I recall, which I may share once you've finished the book, Chrissie.

Gaeta, I think your point about not rating such personal stories of trauma is well-made.


Chrissie Gaeta, that is a valid point, but prospective readers must still decide whether they should read the book or not and a rating helps them. Green Ghosts is neither available on Kindle or audio here in Belgium. I have moved it to a wishlist, on your advice.

Kim, no rating for you either?

One always notes that books about the holocaust, trauma and such are rated with more points than others. Most do not want to belittle the horror of the event. One has to keep this in mind.


Chrissie Gaeta, I cannot say I agree with you about rating such books. I do not feel my opinion is that important; my review is always completely personal. I want all to voice their opinion, but I do want a clear clarification of that opinion. I do not want to make a distinction between those books that affect one intellectually versus emotionally. The best books achieve both.


Chrissie Hmmm.


Chrissie Gaeta, I have been thinking. I would just like to add that I believe one must always show respect to others, whether it be an author or anyone else. I try and always keep my reviews polite, even if I dislike the book. In books such as the ones you are speaking of, one should not belittle the experiences of others.

One should try to be polite. In reality, so much is misunderstood here on the Internet, regardless of how much one tries to be clear, that one should never write a single sentence for fear of upsetting another. Conversely, people could and should state their opposing views, when they disagree. Perhaps then one would find that the views aren't really that different from each other.

Neither you nor I feel it is appropriate to show a lack of respect or compassion for another person's problems or suffering.


Chrissie There are definitely books that I have felt uncomfortable rating. If This Is a Man / The Truce was one such book.


message 8: by Kim (new)

Kim Chrissie, I read this years before I joined GR and I have added relatively few books from that era, most of them novels. At the time, I read the book because the subject matter was of professional interest to me. If I read it now, I'm not saying that I wouldn't rate it, but if I did it would have to be in an entirely different way to the way in which I rate other non-fiction books. As it happens, the issue is unlikely to rise very often for me, because I don't tend to read very many memoirs of traumatic experiences.


Chrissie I agree Kim; each book must be rated in a manner that is appropriate for that particular book. It is very hard to speak in general terms.

When I have finished the book I will tell you, then I would like to hear what both of you have to say. Both of you are so well read on information concerning literature. I am very interested in knowing your concerns and what you have learned.


message 10: by Cassiel (new)

Cassiel 5 stars for powerful and thought provoking, even if not eloquent...


Chrissie Cassiel, have you read the book? Only after reading it can one really understand how difficult it is to critically judge this book. Yes, I have thoughts, but given how frequently statements are misunderstood here on GR, it would be better to discuss this book with others face to face.

Correct, eloquent writing isn't always essential. I am currently reading a very eloquently worded book. That does not mean I will give it many stars!


Chrissie Gaeta, pls send me a message. OK? I would like to hear your thoughts.


message 13: by Cassiel (new)

Cassiel Hi Chrissie, no I haven't read the book, but was replying to your statement and rhetorical question (and should have made that more clear):

"I do think this book should be read. How do you rate a book like this?"

Only my subjective opinion, but if I would recommend a book to other readers (I do think this book should be read.) I would give it 5 stars.


Chrissie Cassiel, heavens, some books, even if they are not amazing(5 stars) or even very good(4 stars,) should be read. If I gave all the books that are not a waste of time to read 5 stars, so many books would be five starred that the those stars would have no value. Initially, I did not agree with Gaeta, but having read the book, I now do.


message 15: by Kim (last edited Sep 27, 2012 10:20PM) (new)

Kim Gaeta1 wrote: "I can also see why this book was controversial among the ex-pat Cambodian community. ..."

I can also understand why that would be the case. One of my central problems was with the ending. (view spoiler) Bear in mind that I read this book upwards of ten years ago, so my recollection could well be faulty. In addition, it's no doubt a nitpicky issue of zero importance to anyone else.


Chrissie Thank you for explaining your view, Kim.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Ung has 2 further books in this sequence.


Chrissie Osho, have you read them? Do you recommend them? Nice you liked my review. You are so knowledgeable; your "like" is quite special! :0)


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, thank you! I enjoy your reviews very much.

I've read the second (Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind) and not yet the third (Lulu in the Sky: A Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing, and Double Happiness)--I'll read it right before my next trip to Cambodia. The second book shows the post-traumatic reaction more explicitly, and is more interior and emotional. This may be in part a result of reader feedback, or the growing maturity and self-awareness of the child protagonist, or an adaptation to Western narrative style. Reading In the Shadow of the Banyan, which has been fictionalized from the author's experience, I noticed much more lyricism and emotional depth. I see this as evidence of the shift in genres--fiction allows for a more poetic narrative that is also tidier and less picaresque. Ung, Chanrithy Him, and others relating their Khmer Rouge genocide experiences generally have a tone of reportage and tell the story autobiographically (this happened, then this) rather than as a plot. My guess is that this reflects Cambodian storytelling style for this kind of event.

Chanrithy Him is working on another book. I've been lent a copy of Bun Yom's Tomorrow I'm Dead but haven't yet read it.


Chrissie I will note these books on my shelves. Thank you. I certainly did notice the simplistic writing style. I do believe that a biography need not be written so simplistically, but as you say it could be a reflection of the typical Cambodian narrative style.


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