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Mõranenud klaas kerkib pinnale

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Käesoleva raamatu kaante vahel on hapra, kuid vapra khmeeri naise Chanrithy Himi haarav minajutustus oma lapsepõlvest julmade punakhmeeride võimu all Kambodžas.
Südamlik ja põnev meenutuste raamat pajatab sellest, kuidas Chanrithy suur ühtehoidev pere kodust välja kihutati ning kuidas koos teiste peredega 12 aastat ellujäämise eest võideldi.
See aeg oli täis kannatusi ja piinu sunnitöölaagrites, põgenemisi ja rändamisi teadmatusse, nälga, ränki haigusi ja lähedaste surma, kuid ka lootust ja usku tulevikku.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published April 1, 2000

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About the author

Chanrithy Him

3 books48 followers
Born in Takeo Province and now lives in Portland, Oregon, Chanrithy Him is a child survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide. She is an international speaker, Human Rights activist and author of the widely acclaimed, award-winning memoir, "When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge" (Norton).

In 2004 she received a personal thank-you letter from Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright for "giving voice to those who have none." Her writing appears in the book "Voices of Protest: Documents of Courage and Dissent," with the words of other icons of justice, such as Martin Luther King, Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mohammed Ali, and Rachel Carson. Radio Sweden Channel One compared her memoir with books written by Imre Kertész, the 2002 Nobel Prize winner in literature and Holocaust concentration camp survivor. She was featured with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a film called "The Will To Live." Her words have been heard on the BBC, Al Jazeera, the Voice of America, Cambodian National TV, Australian radio and TV, and U.S. radio and television. She has been the keynote speaker at lecture halls in the U.S., Australia, Cambodia, Canada and Denmark.

In addition to speaking about her book, Chanrithy loves to perform a Khmer classical dance called "The Blessing Dance" for her audiences, as requested.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 411 reviews
Profile Image for Debbie W..
760 reviews569 followers
June 3, 2023
Why I chose to read this book:
1. even though I've heard about the Khmer Rouge regime under the dictatorship of Pol Pot, I wanted to learn more. I thought that reading the memoir of someone who actually lived through it would meet my needs; and,
2. May 2023 is my self-declared "People of the Far East" Month (featured country: Cambodia).

1. author Chanrithy Him writes a childlike perspective of the 7+ years that she and her family experienced during one of the most horrendous periods in modern history. They endured starvation, slave labor, squalid living conditions, injuries, illnesses, extreme pain, and even witnessed horrific deaths;
2. Athy shares her eventual chance for freedom as a refugee when an uncle who managed to escape to America sponsored various family members to join him. Their experiences as refugees ranged from frightful to compassionate; and,
3. Him included English translations of various Cambodian words, 6 pages of black & white photos, a family tree, and a map detailing her family's journey.

Him's writing was sporadic and often repetitive. Although sad at times, her writing style lacked depth. Her story just didn't blow me away.

Overall Thoughts:
When broken glass floats = a time when evil triumphs over good.

Although eye-opening and thought-provoking, I expected more. I do own the book The Killing Fields by Christopher Hudson - perhaps that book will give me the intenseness that I am seeking.

"In the end, I know only that war is inevitable in the world as long as leaders such as Pol Pot are empowered by their kind - and as long as those who can make a difference by doing good deeds choose to look the other way ... The cost of war is a lifelong legacy borne by children."
Profile Image for Christina Stind.
490 reviews54 followers
August 17, 2011
Normally, I can't wait to get to bed. I can't wait to lie in bed and read. The house is quiet, the kids are asleep, the tv is off - just quality time with a book. But when reading this book, reading wasn't always pleasant. This is really not a book you read to to enjoy it or to be pulled into another world and explore it. I read this in part because my boyfriend recommended it, in part because we sponsor a child in Cambodia and in part because I didn't know much about the Khmer Rouge and wanted to learn.
This is the story of Chanrithy Him and her family, her parents and seven siblings. This is her story of how it was growing up in a Cambodia, torn apart by the Khmer Rouge. What this family is put through is truly dreadful. There are passages where you just question how any human being is cable of inflicting such suffering on others - or how anyone manage to survive it all.
Chanrithy tells engagingly about how she and her family is forced to leave their home and find their way out of the city, ending up in various villages in the country as they move along. Very quickly her father is executed - being a man of learning, he was not wanted by the Khmer Rouge who sought to create a society where all was equal and where anybody with any education was a threat to be eliminated. After being forced to dig his own grave, her father is killed with a hoe ...
Her mother is then the sole caretaker of the family but most of the children are forced to work, sometimes being sent to work camps far away on their own and never given enough to eat. The lack of food and the very hard work naturally have an impact on their health, inflicting various diseases on them or causing rather minor diseases to become much more critical.
One of the hardest things for me to read was the story of how her three-year old brother lies in hospital, dying, and how all he wants - of course - is his mother. But she is too sick to be able to walk to the hospital to see him so he ends up dying without his mother visiting him - and when he has died, his sister takes his shirt off him because the family needs that for another child...
Also, the story of Chanrithy's other little brother who does survive the Khmer Rouge is heartbreaking since he is too young to really understand what's happening - but not too young to feel the suffering and the hunger - and is left too fend for himself all day when his older family member are working in the fields.
An execution of a pregnant woman is also a scene that stays with me.
Although we are all more or less desensitized to stories of human suffering, war crimes, and killings, the Khmer Rouge were so cruel that parts of this story really shocked me. And as if the physical suffering they inflicted on the people of Cambodia wasn't enough, they also tried to eliminate the culture by minimizing the importance of family, the polite ways of addressing others - and of course killing off anybody who in any way caught their displeasure.
One thing I was really impressed with in Chanrithy's memoirs is the fact that she does tell stories about some members of the Khmer Rouge who was kind and helpful, caring and friendly. She does share how some of them helped her in various ways - some of them just by being kind and showing some humanity.
This is a dreadful history of a truly tragic period of human history. I would like to conclude by saying something along the lines that if you don't know history, you are doomed to repeat it, but sometimes I fear that these various tyrannic regimes actually take notes from each other so that they constantly evolve and each new regime becomes even more horrible than the one before, capable of inflicting even more suffering.
Still, knowledge is a good thing - unless of course you are living in a country ruled by Mao, the Khmer Rouge or other regimes hating education and knowledge. For us, fortunate enough to live in countries where we have the freedom to do pretty much whatever we wish for, in some ways we have a duty to honor the people suffering in other countries by at the very least reading about their plights.
789 reviews7 followers
May 11, 2013
In preparation for our trip to Cambodia and the Killing Fields near Phnom Penh I read three books: In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner, First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung, and When Glass Floats by Chanrithy Him. Each of the three books was about a young girl who, with their families, suffered under the Khmer Rouge communist regime and their genocide campaign.

The Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Penh, its last obstacle to ruling all of Cambodia, on April 17th, 1975. They turned the cities into ghost towns, evacuating or killing the city dwellers and forcing their populations into the countryside. They abolished schools and universities. They nullified markets and the monetary system, making them all destitute. And systematically executed all those in the former government and military, the teachers, the doctors, the religious leaders, and any they viewed as intellectuals...sometimes just because they wore glasses. All this was done to satisfy Pol Pot's dream of turning Cambodia into an agrarian state isolated from Western influence. But, this was just the beginning of the Khmer Rouge atrocities. When the country was liberated from the regime in January of 1979, an estimated 2 million Cambodians had suffered death under the regime. Almost an entire nation was orphaned.

Both First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung and When Glass Floats by Chanrithy Him are autobiographical whereas In the Shadow of the Banyan is a novel, though based on the author's experiences. If you are only going to read one of these three books, I recommend reading First They Killed My Father for its scope. However, I do still recommend reading this book as well. Thy's (short for Chanrithy) story of war starts 6 years before the other two stories - in 1969 - where we get a glimpse of how the competing agendas of the US government and the Chinese government played a role in the rise of the Khmer regime and a Cambodian nation at war before the beginning of the genocide. And, though it is a story that relates to Loung Ung's story it also adds depth of understanding that is not offered if you only read one book. In this book you also find the truth that not all the Khmer Rouge were evil, but they themselves were trying to survive.

"As I stare at these Khmer Rouge, Uncle Seng's last words replay in my mind: The Khmer Rouge are my first enemy. I won't stay to see their faces. This is the delicious power of the mind - they can't stop me from my silent thoughts. They can't interrogate my memories."
Profile Image for Quirkyreader.
1,538 reviews43 followers
June 8, 2018
This memoir was a heart wrenching account of what it was like to live under the Khmer Rouge regime.

Him's account starts when she was a child living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She goes onto describe the mass "evacuation" of her city and being placed in a labour camp. She also goes onto describe the conditions of the camps, starvation, the loss of loved ones, and the other horrors she faced.

If you read this memoir, it can help to put current refugee events into perspective. Also, make sure you have plenty of tissues near by.
Profile Image for Woman Reading .
432 reviews285 followers
November 24, 2019
One of many Cambodian stories that need to be heard. 3.5 stars

Spurred by my first visit to Cambodia and to 4 other Southeast Asian countries earlier this year, I returned home dissatisfied by my own ignorance. Despite taking an Advanced Placement History course in high school, my main takeaway from the Vietnam War was that my country’s involvement was motivated by the Domino Theory of containment to stop the spread of Communism. I didn’t know until my visit that the US military had also been active in Cambodia and Laos as part of that strategy.

I sensed a great deal of self-censorship from my local tour guide in Phnom Penh. I had visited the Tuol Sleng genocide museum, and this led me to read Chanrithy Him’s (“Athy”) When Broken Glass Floats (WBGF) for a group book of the month. I know that the author hadn’t been imprisoned there because only about a dozen survivors, all men, had been freed from the infamous S-21 prison. Nor did I expect WBGF to provide me with a comprehensive overview of the Khmer Rouge (which it didn’t), since it was the author’s account of her life from age four to sixteen. Her purpose for writing her memoir was to give voice to other victims so that mental health help could be provided to children exposed to war. It was also Athy’s act of defiance and vengeance to the Khmer Rouge, which still had not been tried for crimes against humanity by 2000 (the publication year of WBGF), despite efforts from both the United Nations and the then Cambodian government.

WBGF was initially a slow read for me. The preface had set the stage for some of the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities - such as children had witnessed other humans cut up so that their livers could be eaten. My mind also still contained horrific images from Tuol Sleng, which had housed the worst of the documented cruelties, such as the dried blood and bodily fluid - stained floors of the closet-sized prison cells. So my anticipatory fears of what had occurred to Athy and her family made me quite reluctant to read. Although my worst fears weren’t realized, Athy’s childhood was still truly harrowing to read.
"We eat tadpoles, crickets, toads, centipedes, mice, rats and scorpions. We eat everything. Hunger owns us."

In a world in which pens and writing signified the outlawed indicators of education, Athy said that the passage of time was marked by the deaths of her family members. This consequently made my reading progress marked by the need for chocolate to mitigate the grim realities that I was reading. But now that I have finished WBGF, I was most struck by Athy’s desire to live, which sustained her through the deaths of her parents and five siblings, starvation, and enslavement as an agricultural laborer.

Outrunning the wheel of history (kang prawattasas)

I couldn’t quite pinpoint which factors most accounted for Athy’s survival. Her survival seemed as though it could be attributed to a combination of her will to survive, pure luck, being a girl child (as opposed to being an adult male), having older family members nearby, and her faith which consisted of a blend of Buddhism and ancestor worship. Her eldest sister was the one who taught her the story, for which she named her memoir:
"Klok (a squash representing “good”) and armbaeg (shards of broken glass representing “evil”) are thrown together into the river of life. Klok sinks and armbaeg floats, but not for long. Soon there will be a reversal and good will win over evil."

The author’s family was one of the typical groups targeted by Pol Pot starting in 1975. Though he himself had been educated in Paris, Pol Pot immediately eliminated the educated or professionals in Cambodian society in order to stifle dissent (after all, by the standards the Khmer Rouge had invoked, that would have qualified Pol Pot for execution). Hospitals, temples, schools and other institutions of a stable society were shut down. Cambodia’s population consisted mostly of agrarian workers, and the Khmer Rouge elevated these folks at the expense of the former urbanites. Pol Pot’s Marxist-Leninist beliefs were claimed as the justification, but it all boiled down to the best way the Khmer Rouge could exert control. Many of the Khmer Rouge’s practices reminded me of extreme methods applied by cults:

•Isolate people socially, physically, and emotionally by eliminating or, at least, undermining familial ties

•Strip people of their possessions

•Break down all societal norms and replace them with new rules and philosophies

•Make them dependent upon the leadership for survival (“food” was miserly rationed)

•Control their speech and behavior by the use of informants and corporal punishment

Overall, reading WBGF was difficult, emotionally grueling but worthwhile. (My guidebook had recommended another memoir - Luong Ung's First They Killed My Father and I'll read that after I check my chocolate inventory.) WBGF is one of many Cambodian stories that need to be heard, not only for this tragic period but as a caution on human behavior in its reach for power. I know that this or a smaller version of it could happen anywhere. I point to the 1960s Milgram experiment or to the 1978 Jonestown massacre. Reading WBGF also gave me a springboard to research this time in history a bit further and filled in the gaps between sterile facts of history.

Quick history summary

Multiple parties with changing alliances had wrestled for control of Cambodia during the second half of the 20th century. Cambodia is a small country (about the size of Oklahoma, USA), that is bordered by Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and the Gulf of Thailand. Given this geo physical reality, Cambodia was inevitably pulled into larger regional conflicts and power-plays. The Vietnam War or the War Against the USA (depending on your perspective) had actually been fought in 3 countries from late 1955 to April 1975 as the Communist Viet Cong dispersed throughout the region.

No longer a French colony by 1953, Cambodia’s leader Prince Norodom Sihanouk was deposed in a bloodless coup in 1970. The new government was headed by Lon Nol, who had been supported by the United States. Prince Sihaunook sought refuge in Communist China who encouraged him to fight back with the assistance of his former enemies, the Communist Khmer Rouge military. The Khmer Rouge had captured the capital Phnom Penh in April 1975 and soon after forced all residents (1 to 2 million persons) to relocate to the rural areas. The Khmer Rouge claimed that American forces were about to bomb Phnom Penh. It didn’t happen, probably because American military forces were too busy trying to leave Vietnam before Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese army in late April 1975. Led by Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge was responsible for the deaths by execution or from starvation of an estimated 1.75 to 2.5 million Cambodians (approximately 25 percent of the population) from 1975 through 1979.

By the end of April 1975, Communist governments held sway in both Cambodia and Vietnam, with both governments united in repelling American military forces. It didn’t take long though for their accord to fray as the Khmer Rouge feared that Vietnam would try to dominate leadership in the Southeast Asian peninsula while Vietnam was concerned that its much larger neighbor China exerted too much influence with Cambodia. On the surface, Pol Pot’s relocation of the urban populace to create large farm collectives resembled Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in China. To me, the Khmer Rouge’s rhetoric was the means of hiding their massive cruelty in exerting power. Military skirmishes between Cambodia and Vietnam began in May 1975 and continued intermittently. The Cambodian genocide ended once Vietnamese forces took over Phnom Penh by January 1979. Sporadic attacks by the Khmer Rouge, however, continued for another decade.
Profile Image for Books Ring Mah Bell.
357 reviews262 followers
June 4, 2008
This book is so depressing it would make Pollyanna eat a gun.

However, it was incredibly powerful and moving. I put the book down a few times, refusing to pick it up again. I skimmed some of the more awful parts (3 year old brother dying, pregnant woman being slaughtered) and was rewarded with one simple thing: this woman survives and comes out tough and compassionate. She manages to rise above where others crumble...

Profile Image for Lena Lang.
80 reviews2 followers
May 17, 2013
I think people are generally reluctant to give this book a low rating due to it's subject matter. Seeing as how the author actually experienced the atrocities she described it would be a pretty low blow to critique a book that is essentially her story as she experienced it.
However it needs to be said that the writing was pretty juvenile. The dialogue is really stilted and the characters were pretty undeveloped. A really complex situation was pretty much boiled down to bad guys vs good guys with the good guys being people in her family or who she befriended and the bad guys being all of the Khumer Rouge. I am in no way saying that the work she is doing and the writing of the book are not valuable.Both endeavors shed light on the atrocities ordinary Cambodians faced under Pol Pot which is important for people for whom this conflict seems too far , too long ago and too foreign to know about. Having said that, I think the book would have definitely benefited from some structural upgrades.

The descriptions of her family members were not very detailed or compelling. I always find it hard to endure descriptions of people that center on only the positive things about them. People are multifaceted and complex. Everyone, even the stoic matriarch would have had flaws or weaknesses that I think are worth mentioning because they are easier to relate to. In this case, I found it hard to relate to the author's family both because of the details she chose to share and the heavy use of romanized Cambodian through the text. This was unnecessary and distracting.

The main criticism I have of this memoir is that it fails to give a context to her experiences. The average person reading this kind of book probably lacks sufficient historical knowledge to be able to make sense of the events that transpired. I got a sense that the author wrote this work in a large part as a way to make sense of her experiences and give them voice so that she could make peace with her past. I think that is very valuable, but I couldn't help thinking that part of making peace is getting some perspective on what transpired. I felt that this work did not communicate that. It ended as abruptly as it started.

I would have loved to have more background on the rise of the Khumer Rouge movement, the role of the US and it's containment policy that lead to the war in Vietnam and well as the role of the neighboring countries like Thailand. This was necessary in that it would help explain the motivations of the revolutionaries as well as the resistance movement in Cambodia. Going forward, this would have helped contextualize her experiences in the refugee camps as well because Thailand's involvement was key to establishing trade, markets and a sense of normalcy for the Camboidian refugees living close to the border. It was not , however, a perfect relationship as many Thai people revictimized the refugees by trafficking them or treating them unfailrly as evidenced by several anecdotes from the story. Again I cannot speak confidently on this topic because it was not elaborated upon in any great detail and was not put into context.

There were so many parts of the book that I felt needed elaboration. She hinted at issues that would have made for a more compelling read. One example is the role of semi collaborators like the man who helped the author obtain food and who seemed to be empathetic to her plight. Who were these people? Were they the exception to the rule, or were acts of furtive kindness pervasive through the cruelty of the revolution? I have to admit I want to believe the latter but as Him didn't really say much about that aspect of her story other than to express gratitude, I have to read additional books on the subject.

Him also hints at the cultural legacy of the period and how transformative it was for the mentality of the people. This is crystallized when Him has the courage to stand up for herself in class when accused of plagarism. She notes that the revolution allowed people to step outside the Confucian hierarchies that had defined inter generational communication. Without the revolution, without having gone through what she went through she would have never talked to an elder in that way despite being in the right. Other times there appears to be a nostalgia, a comfort when people address her using traditional Cambodian greetings which always take into account the speaker's social position relative to the receiver's. I sensed there is more to this ambivalence about cultural shifts resulting from the revolution than Him addressed. But those can not be spoken about without acknowledging the complexity of the situation and of people's experience. These issues require a more detailed, informed analysis that the one Him provides the readers with in this book.

Without providing much of a context for the events she describes, Him works tends to put the reader outside the situation, like a person morbidly observing a car crash. I get that this recreates how it must have felt for the ordinary people involved, but it does little to educate the general public reading about it today. Without contextualizing her experiences, the book is just an array or tear inducing memories.
Profile Image for Missy J.
572 reviews87 followers
May 1, 2022
"Chea, how come good doesn't win over evil? Why did the Khmer Rouge win if they are bad people?"

Chea answered: "Loss will be God's, victory will be the devil's." When good appears to lose, it is an opportunity for one to be patient, and become like God. "But not very long, p'yoon srey [younger sister]," she explained, and referred to a Cambodian proverb about what happens when good and evil are thrown together into the river of life. Good is symbolized by klok, a type of squash, and evil by armbaeg, shards of broken glass. "The good will win over the evil. Now, klok sinks, and broken glass floats. But armbaeg will not float long. Soon klok will float instead, and then the good will prevail."

I found this memoir brilliant. Chanrithy Him was ten years old when the Khmer Rouge came to power in her native Cambodia. She was 14 years old when the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia and drove the Khmer Rouge back into the jungle. Finally, she was 16 years old when she and her remaining family immigrated to the United States. The writing might be clumsy at times, but the author never failed to make me understand the feeling of helplessness, starvation and resilience. She introduced me to numerous members of her family and to Cambodian customs. She brought me to the killing fields and the moments where she ran for her life. She made me realize what measures we're capable of going to when deprived of food. There are several occasions described by Chanrithy Him (nicknamed Athy) that, in my opinion, really stood out:

This book didn't try to impress me, didn't try to seek out my pity, didn't try to sensationalize anything. It just told me about life and what happened to Athy and her family under the rule of a tyrannical government and starvation. Furthermore, this book gave me an idea of how the people in North Korea might be starving. Four years under the Khmer Rouge, still left the Cambodia today with a lot of open wounds.
Profile Image for Dorie.
696 reviews
November 7, 2017
When Broken Glass Floats🍒🍒🍒🍒🍒
By Chanrithy Him

This memoir begins before the rise of the Khymer Regime, when the US government and China government both played significant roles in the Khymer regime, before the beginning of the genocide.
When Khymer Rouge took control of Phnon Phen on April 17, 1975, they evacuated or killed entire cities, forcing those that could escape, into the countryside.
"Night stretches into day. The revolution of the train wheels on the track sing me to sleep, then I wake to rays of sunlight that flirt through the cracks of the sliding door, telling me that time has passed, even if my own world has stopped, brought to a standstill in this freight car."
As a young girl, seeing and experiencing the execution of all people deemed intelligent, teachers, political and church leaders,doctors. Then beginning to kill anyone at random for any reason .....seeing pregnant women executed, children's head blown off.....these were everyday occurrences.
Being seperated from your family, eating plant roots and mice for survival, suffering sickness and disease with no medical help.....all to fulfill Pol Pot dream of a land with no western influence....
"Than is quiet, but we can feel remorse in his silence. Tonight has brought us brief joy, then grief. Agony at the realization that the Khmer Rouge have shaped us, made our tempers brittle and our hunger sharp. Led us to the point where we could be as cruel to one another as they are to us."
Thy suffered, her heart broke watching the brutal reality, working in extreme conditions with little nutrition or clothing....watching those close to her and her family suffer, fall ill or die. They broke her heart but hardened her resolve and determination to make it through.
It made Thy a remarkable women of strength, compassion and emotionally integrity. To live through this horror is truly a phenomenon but to be able to tell the story, live through it again to put it on paper is truly inspiring.
Highly recommended.....as a personal memoir and one that will inspire you to always rise above.
Profile Image for Cameron.
Author 8 books18 followers
September 14, 2009
This turned out to be one of the very best personal accounts of survival during the Pol Pot Regime. I've read eight others, mostly by women who were children or in their early teens at the time. Chanrithy Him's prose is smooth and engrossing--after the first chapter, which was hard to get through, full of angry bitterness over her experiences; perfectly understandable, but it doesn't draw the reader in, just establishes a barrier. After this, however, she warms up to her subject and paints a vibrant picture of her agonizing struggle for survival during which she loses three siblings and her mother to starvation and her father to a Khmer Rouge death squad. Told in the present tense, the prose is vivid and moves easily back and forth between her internal emotions and the events of her story, and is especially good about explaining cultural and linguistic characteristics relevant to the story. But we can tell that she is not a professional writer: many words are overused and descriptions are repetitive: houses are compared to mushrooms in at least five places. There is also at least one historical error: Him describes meeting a KPNLF soldier prior to May, 1979, when the KPNLF did not exist until October of that year. Nonetheless, I'd rate this at the top of the list of Khmer Rouge survival stories for clarity and readability. The ending, when she finally gets on a plane for the US, is particularly satisfying. The book has a lot in common with Molyda Szymusiak's The Stones Cry Out, but is far more human and introspective, and it compares well with Loung Ung's First They Killed My Father, which has been criticized for its implausible portrayal of a peaceful Phnom Penh in 1975, when the city was actually under siege.
Profile Image for Christina.
69 reviews2 followers
October 19, 2007
This is a great story illustrating the strength of the human spirit and the will to live and thrive against all odds. Chanrithy Him effectively loses her childhood when her home is bombed as a small child by the Khumer Rouge and her family is thrown into the middle of war-torn Cambodia, struggling to stay together and to survive. Hers is an amazing firsthand account of the horrors of slavery, execution, starvation and disease her family went through in a relatively modern era of the 70s. The clippings from the US newspapers of the time detailing the events overseas bring to mind the huge differences between a country of freedom and prosperity vs. a country being torn apart by bombs and ruthless individuals.
Profile Image for Stephpin.
11 reviews6 followers
January 29, 2008
I was pretty clueless about the Cambodian genocide under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. We were headed to Cambodia a few years ago and a friend suggested this book. Don't read this book in public. I wept like a baby when I read of the torture and loss of this sweet little girl. She is actually close to my age and has lived many lives. I came away from this book not only educated, but grateful, sad, disgusted and amazed at the will to live. God does hear our prayers. Chanrithy writes with such power and so matter of fact--I think every teenager and up should read this--the Holocaust seems so long ago, yet this happened during the 70s. I would not recommend children read this book.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,780 reviews1,458 followers
November 26, 2008
One can read history - names and dates and numbers - but to truly understand, it is better to get into the lives of those who lived that history. This book does that.
Profile Image for Caroline Bell.
197 reviews4 followers
March 25, 2016
In order to actually review this book, one has to separate the story from the writing. The story itself is impactful and crushing: a small girl's tale of her experience under the Khmer Rouge, from the day they evacuate the capital city of Phnom Penh, to being flown to the US as a refugee. Her memories are detailed, the emotions raw and honest, and the events heartbreaking. Him writes with a clear head and a great deal of restraint. She never plunges too deep into regret or hysteria. In fact, I was often shocked at how unemotionally she was able to deliver some of her experiences. It read like a cross between a memoir and a historical account; I felt like I learned a lot about the actual events, the timeline, the behavior of the KR, the constant movement from camp to camp, etc. Sometimes these larger structures are left out of war memoirs in lieu of heartrending anecdotes. I think she did a great job balancing the two.

In terms of writing, however, it was not the best. I am sure Him had support from editors, etc. but sometimes her plain style got a little boring or a little primitive even. This is the second or third Khmer Rouge memoir I have read, and it was my least favorite. I also thought it was really hard to keep track of characters, since she boils down each of her siblings' names to two or three letters, and while that is the norm in Cambodia, it was a challenge to remember who was who, and thus feel the full impact of the events in their lives.

I am glad that I read it, and hope to use it as a complementary text with my students one day when we decide they are ready to study the Khmer Rouge regime. If you have never heard of the KR, or just want to brush up on what happened, this is a good place to start.
Profile Image for Ann.
72 reviews
November 4, 2010
This book provided a very real, raw insight into the travails of this nation and the terrible suffering of its people. What occurred was horrendous yet the endurance and tenacity of the people who were 'enslaved' to survive incredible. I want to read more books on this subject now after reading When Broken Glass Floats. It is just by chance that I was born and have lived a life in country's at peace. To create a more empathic world, we need to understand war and violence. Hopefully we will realize the terrible trauma that it brings to those involved and we will find other ways to 'advance' and knowledge to subdue individuals who wish suffering upon others.
236 reviews5 followers
November 2, 2009
I read this for class. I even heard "Map" talk about his experiences.

It's been several years since I read it, so I don't really remember all of it (hence 3 stars). But I loved the story behind the title, which is explained somewhere in the book.
Profile Image for Jessica.
392 reviews32 followers
September 1, 2012
This book started off slow but really picked up. Chanrithy's riveting account of surviving the killing fields of Cambodia and living under the Khmer Rouge kept me turning the pages, holding my breath, and praying that every person in her family makes it out alive. Sadly this is not the case. Throughout her story she loses her father, mother and half her siblings through awful circumstances. The Him family is driven from their home, starved, forced into hard labor camps that benefits the Khmer. Living under the oppressive regime that sees the Cambodians as commodities to be used up, Chanrithy is subjected to cruelty and apathy and lives an existence I cannot fathom. When the family is first forced from their homes they flee to stay in a village with other relatives. It is soon discovered that the village is crawling with informants who will report any indication of words or actions not favorable to the new government. She relates a story of sleeping on the floor and looking through the slats in the floorboards because she feels like someone is watching her. There she sees an informant standing in the basement shadows. I cannot even begin to understand what kind of psychological impact that would have, the fear, the paranoia it makes me shudder. Later her father is taken away for "orientation". They are told he will return in a month. A month passes and he does not return. After weeks of begging for information, a neighbor finally tells Chanrithy's mother the truth in hushed words. Her husband was was considered an enemy of the Khmer Rouge. There was no orientation, instead he and some other men were rounded up, marched to a field, forced to dig their own graves and executed. Chanrithy's mother must then relate the truth to her children, but because of the informants she cannot show any signs of sadness or remorse for fear of being labeled a traitor. She tells her children their father's fate as though she is telling them she plans on making chicken for dinner.

Somehow Chanrithy manages to survive everything. When I look back and realize she was just a little girl, I marvel at how she made it through alive. The horrors of war and dictatorship are made all to real to the reader.
Profile Image for JJ Marsh.
Author 36 books172 followers
September 4, 2016
A book detailing a child’s survival in 1970 Cambodia is not a novel. Highs and lows orchestrated by the author are absent here. This is not a feel-good story. It is a stark revelation of what it meant to be a child under one of the most ruthless regimes in Asia.

This is the early 70s, when Cambodia became an experiment in radical socialism, and the Khmer Rouge took power and attempted to return the country to its 'pure', peasant history. Intellectuals were persecuted, farmers lauded and the entire population coerced into forced labour, resulting in mass malnutrition, disease, death and genocide. Figures vary but the commonly accepted fact is that two million people died, which equated to 25% of the country’s population.

Him’s experience tells her story from the inside. The explosion of the Vietnam war onto their own soil, the break-up of her family, the loyal bonds of blood and country, the grinding misery of starvation and physical deprivation all take us with her, step by uncertain step. Her description of the ‘hospital’ in which her mother lay is almost unbearable.

All this seen through a child’s eyes, conditioned to good manners and respect, to be thrown into a feral environment. Survival, food and reducing empathy to its narrowest circles is at the heart of this moving and powerful narrative.

It’s a tough read, taking the reader along a bleak journey, with small spots of sunshine lit by human kindness. Yet all is overshadowed by a power-hungry ideology and its crushing hold on the population.

This is an important book, the human face of a political tragedy, and a sobering read for enthusiasts of dystopian YA.

You’ll enjoy this is you liked: Nothing to Envy by Barbara Dymick, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Minaret by Leila Aboulela

Avoid if you dislike: Harsh truths about survival, extreme regimes and a child's eye view

Ideal Accompaniments: Fish-heads in rice, cold water and the theme to The Killing Fields

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
Profile Image for Tuyen Tran.
211 reviews46 followers
February 26, 2017
Mình biết đến cuốn hồi ký này từ lúc dự định đi Cambodia, và sau đó đọc, và sau đó đi. Như nhan đề, nó kể về cuộc đời của tác giả sống dưới thời Khmer Đỏ, từ khi là một cô bé con sống sung túc, đến ngày PhnomPenh thất thủ, rồi lay lắt tới khi may mắn vượt biên sang Thailand rồi được bảo lãnh sang USA.

Chế độ cực quyền Cộng sản đỏ đã bóp nghẹt đời sống người dân Cambodia, bóp nghẹt cả thể chất lẫn tinh thần. Ở đó, thời đó, không có quyền được học và không một kẻ trí thức nào được sống sót. Ở đó không có tình cảm gia đình, không mẫu tử, không anh chị em, chỉ có đồng chí. Ở đó làm việc là để phục vụ cách mạng, làm đến chến thì thôi, không nghỉ...

Pol Pot mang lý tưởng chủ nghĩa xã hội theo hướng cực đoan, hệ quả là diệt chủng. Mình có ghé qua thăm Cánh đồng diệt chủng ở Cambodge, những hình ảnh mình tưởng tượng ra từ cuốn sách cộng với hình ảnh mình tưởng tượng ra từ lời thuyết minh, thật hết sức hãi hùng. Lịch sử đã ghi dấu những cuộc diệu chủng, hoặc lịch sử đã bị giới cầm quyền che đậy, nhưng tội ác của con người gây ra cho con người thì không thể xóa nhòa được trong lòng chính con người.
Profile Image for Clover White.
447 reviews3 followers
February 13, 2013
When I first started reading this book, I was put off by the stilted writing. I ended up being glad that Chanrithy Him is a survivor, not a writer, because if she had been able to express herself better, I might not have been able to get through this book depicting the horrible events under the Khmer Rouge. Horrifying and illuminating.
4 reviews2 followers
May 8, 2008
This isn't a very well written book but the story is amazing and heartbreaking at the same time. I have read a lot about the Holucust but I didn't know much about the Khmer Rouge invading Cambodia, so sad.
Profile Image for Erin.
19 reviews2 followers
October 5, 2017
Heavy and depressing, not many books make me cry. Still I could not put it down. If you really want to know more about life under the Khmer Rouge and the genocide that occurred in the 70s, read this book.
Profile Image for Cortney.
531 reviews2 followers
October 16, 2018
Definitely just cried as I read this. It tugged at my mom heart and this was absolutely tragic. But if you don't know about the Cambodian Genocide that happened after the Vietnam war, READ THIS BOOK. But have tissues and if you have kids in your life, hug them just a little bit closer.
Profile Image for Dawn Lennon.
Author 1 book30 followers
October 12, 2015
Times goes on and so does war. In the late 1970's it was the efforts of Cambodian families (mostly its surviving women and children) to escape the killing and enslavement brought about by the Khmer Rouge. This memoir, written through the eyes of a girl during her childhood, is a disturbing snapshot of what it was like for kids to survive fear, starvation, sickness, death, labor camps, loss, isolation, and confusion as they were moved from place to place, treated as no better than work tools, while desperately wanting to feel safe and happy as they were before they were forced from their homes.

Once again, we learn what it means to survive the unthinkable, to be starving, to do with next to nothing, to try to understand how to survive, to stay in contact even when separated, to stick together during the worst times, to make new allies, to become an extended family, to sacrifice for the sick, and to honor the dead. It's a chilling tale and one that makes the reader wonder what they would do under the circumstances.

If I have any disappointment about the book, it's that there was almost nothing about the historical, political, and economic aspects of the conflicts, particularly the connections between the forces at war: Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, the US, and the Khmer Rouge. I would have liked to understand what was going on the theaters around the labor camps depicted in the book.
Profile Image for Caroline.
516 reviews21 followers
April 17, 2013
The Khmer Rouge seizure of Cambodia in 1975 began a period of horrific cruelty and death. Pol Pot's regime evacuated families from Phnom Penh, forcing them into the countryside into forced labor camps and makeshift villages where they were starved, beaten and more often than not executed for even the smallest disobedience. The author was 10 years old when her world violently fell apart, beginning the execution of her father. Before she was even 16, her mother was thrown into a well and she had lost younger brothers and sisters to disease and starvation.

Having fortunately and successfully been sponsored to the America by the only one of her father's brothers to escape the Khmer Rouge, the author shares the story of her amazing survival and that of her remaining siblings during this tragic period of Cambodia's history. While it is not surprising that memories of that period in her life would be extremely painful, she writes without notes of any self-pity. If anything there is a sense of pride in being Cambodian that permeates. Amidst the terror, violence and sorrow, she shares glimpses of the gentle side of Cambodian culture and some of their language.

The subject matter is disturbing, but it's an incredible work and one I'm so very glad to have read.
Profile Image for Tina.
91 reviews9 followers
July 13, 2010
It's difficult to write a review for this book as the subject matter moves me almost beyond words. I've visited Cambodia twice now; seen firsthand the devastation that the Khmer Rouge left on this country. I've walked the killing fields, seen the sunken pits (newly exhumed mass graves), the execution trees, the piles of bones and skulls. I've heard personal stories of families affected by the KR--what devastation and destruction that part of history brought an entire culture. It's a part of history that needs to be told and Chanrithy Him has done it an excellent job of recanting her experience. I would highly recommend this book.

You know, I've had the opportunity to visit many parts of Germany, including the concentration camp at Dachau, and to have lived for six months in Bosnia as they were rebuilding after the war, but there is something about Cambodia that has attached itself to my heart, perhaps you'll understand why too after reading this book. . .
Profile Image for Stefanie Robinson.
1,803 reviews6 followers
March 13, 2022
This is a memoir of Chanrithy Him, a Cambodian girl who was just a child when the Khmer Rouge began their takeover. The book is written from a child's perspective, so a lot of the material is presented in an innocent manner and without a lot of political detail. A lot of times, people view wars in the context of military numbers and casualties, troop movements, and politics. Perhaps it is easier to think of only those things than it is to consider what people on the ground in these towns are enduring. It must be simply horrible to live through the noise and uncertainty and danger. The images of death and torture that people are subjected to must certainly affect them long term. The author bio on the book says that the author went on to study post traumatic stress in Cambodians in the years after the war. This was not my favorite historical nonfiction book of the year, or even that I have read this month, but it was moving and thought provoking.
Profile Image for Erin.
34 reviews
August 25, 2009
I've been on a reading kick of refugee/war/holocaust surveyors that are still inspiring. This is the third book I've read in about four days on this topic. What I never realized was how modern parts of Cambodia were before the Khmer Rouge took over. These people were just like us.

When Thy talks about having to wade into a river the first time in order to fish for food, she talks about how squeamish she was. For the longest time, they kept thinking that things were going to go back to normal. It just brought it home to me, that whenever there is tip in power, life can change dramatically overnight. We always need to keep that into perspective.

We also need to understand who we can trust, and who we cannot. There of course is lots of room to think in this book. Just how does it apply to my life right now? I believe this would make a good discussion book.
Profile Image for Tracey.
94 reviews17 followers
June 29, 2021
It’s difficult to encapsulate the experience of reading this book.

I had to frequently remind myself the child that is now the author would survive to write her story.

This is not as sterile as the summary might suggest.

It’s gritty, painful and often heart breaking.

It’s important.

I chose this title because I wanted to understand how the Khmer Rouge had gained power, manipulated the media and information stream and how they convinced one part of the population to hate and oppress the other.

But what I also received was a profound gratitude for my life of freedom, safety and access to food. I still think about specific incidents that haunted the author.

Chanrithy Him is as extraordinary as any Marvel character in her tenacity, bravery and intelligence. I only wish the villains had been fiction.
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