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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)

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  22,322 Ratings  ·  2,107 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 c

Hardcover, 240 pages
Published January 26th 2000 by Harper (first published 2000)
More Details... edit details

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Popular Answered Questions

Jessica Kalenik Lounge nearly starves, loses multiple family members through the re-education attempts under the Khmer Rouge regime
Judy Lindow Yes, I'm reading this, am half way through, and have already decided to read 2 more of her books. It's hard to believe that the story is non-fiction.…moreYes, I'm reading this, am half way through, and have already decided to read 2 more of her books. It's hard to believe that the story is non-fiction. It reads to me more like historical fiction - in that it's engaging and hard to put down. A clinical recounting of just the facts would not relay the humanity of what happened. The book is hard to put down; it's hard to believe, and the amount of brutality, cruelty and suffering are mind numbing. It is however, hard to pick up for the same reasons. Who wants to know the horrors men are capable of? I've seen pictures and a documentary on the killing fields and quickly put what happened in the part of my brain that sorts items to forget vs. things to dwell on - and forgot. At the same time, I think everyone should read this story. The harder question is: Why? Why should everyone know this happened? That's the important question and answer. (less)
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Community Reviews

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Rating details
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Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
May 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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, information ...more
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A riveting but harrowing account of a young Cambodian girl who's innocent idyllic childhood is swiftly obliterated by the invasion of the Khmer Rouge.

Loung at 5 years old and one of seven children shares her traumatic story of the 4 years spent under the terrifying Khmer Rouge reign trying to survive after her family are forced to flee their home in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh in 1975, it details all the devastating hardships from being forced to live in a labour camp, starvation, disease and
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
Carol Clouds ꧁꧂
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)
Horace Derwent
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

You know nothing about Cambodia if you don't read this book

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

Nov 24, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
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
This is a true survival story. The memoirs of Loung as she lived through the Khmer Roug take over of her country from 1975-1979 as a five year old girl with her parents and siblings are unbelievable. She ended up becoming an orphan as the soldiers murder her parents and two sisters during this horrible time in Cambodia. It is sometimes tough to read but her strength is truly amazing as she survives the worst time in her countrys history alone in a camp for child soldiers as Pol Pot reigns terror ...more
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?
Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
love, ashley 🌈
A heartbreaking memoir detailing the horrors of the Cambodian genocide and Khmer Rouge takeover. Loung's story spans over 4 years, from her sheltered life in Phnom Penh before the invasion, to her leaving Thailand for America. I urge anyone and everyone to read this (or listen to the audiobook, I kind of wish I had because I'm sure I was mispronouncing a lot of words in my head).
Marco Pavan
Aug 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is very important to me because it represents the roots of my wife's family. Having visited Cambodia, having seen the pile of bones from the genocide, having heard her family's stories I can't help feeling a vivid pain for all the suffering the Khmer people have to go through because of Pol Pot. A magnitude not second to the holocaust and yet very much unknown to the most. I give this book 4 stars only because at times some passages are hard to read, but i recognize the very powerful a ...more
Winter Sophia Rose
Heartbreaking, Encouraging, Gripping & Powerful! An Eye Opening, Exceptional Read! I Loved It!
❆ Crystal ❆
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian-literature
This book is so heartbreaking at so many levels, i cannot name them. words are useless.
I thought at one time at Susanne Collins' Hunger games. of course, there is no comparision, i dont even know why my mind came to that. that is pure stupid science fiction, written from somebody who never had to experience war and famine, Ung's book is pure stupid reality. If i hadn't had known this is a real story, a real person who lived through that, i would have easily said, it cannot be true. people canno
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a touching book. It was about struggle, hunger, trying times and a girl's strength to overcome. It's about a family's love, a woman's experience as a child in Cambodia. I was often in tears throughout the book imagining what it must have been like to go through such horrible things.

I listened to the audiobook and enjoyed the narrator. I definitely recommend this book to anyone whom wants to learn about this part of history, or really to anyone!
♥ 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. ;
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
Jun 25, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  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
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
Nicky Robinson
May 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars, nonfiction
I really had to remind myself throughout that it was real, and this happened; because the horrors were so unbelievable it seemed fictional.
Yet Ung writes with such truth, not only of events, but of how she felt; what hunger made her do, her desire to kill or hurt at the age of 8, because of what had been done to her.
This book was confronting, powerful, informative, emotional, devastating, and what occurs is near unthinkable.

I can't even capture what this book does.... Please read it.

"I think
Dec 01, 2010 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
Rebecca McNutt
First They Killed my Father is a book that few authors could face writing. The content is horrifying, yet a firm reminder to keep history from repeating itself, told by a woman who watched her world collapse around her.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 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
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...

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“I think how the world is still somehow beautiful even when I feel no joy at being alive within it. ” 97 likes
“In my heart I know the truth, but my mind cannot accept the reality of what this all means.” 26 likes
More quotes…