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Year of the Rabbit

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  451 ratings  ·  79 reviews
One family’s quest to survive the devastation of the Khmer Rouge

Year of the Rabbit tells the true story of one family’s desperate struggle to survive the murderous reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. In 1975, the Khmer Rouge seized power in the capital city of Phnom Penh. Immediately after declaring victory in the war, they set about evacuating the country’s major cities
Paperback, 380 pages
Published January 21st 2020 by Drawn and Quarterly (first published 2020)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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Dave Schaafsma
Cartoonist Tian Veasna was born in Cambodia just three days after the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975, as his family set forth on the chaotic mass exodus from Phnom Penh. They got out, and now, decades later, Veasna took the opportunity to interview his parents and other family members who survived the genocide—around a quarter of its population mainly slaughtered by the deranged tyrant Pol Pot and his equally deranged army—and created an intimate and important comics portrait of the atrocities tha ...more
Rod Brown
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
Most of my knowledge of the Cambodian genocide under the Khmer Rouge comes from dry textbooks read long ago and The Killing Fields, one of those 1980s movies that felt obliged to shove a white character into the middle of another people's story. I'm most grateful for the chance to refresh myself on the tragic events that killed millions of people -- around one quarter of the country's population -- by execution, torture, disease and famine during the years 1975-79. And I was moved by the courage ...more
Reading about human rights atrocities is difficult. It is hard to read, it is hard to accept, and it is hard to finish. Even though, in a case like this, you know at least one person made it out alive to be able to write the book you hold in your hands, it does not make it any easier.

Year of the Rabbit chronicles the Veasna family's experience of the Khmer Rouge. What starts with a revolution with idealistic goals ends up as a genocidal nightmare. This is a personal story, as the author, Chan (T
Chris Blocker
Jul 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Year of the Rabbit is a graphic novel that depicts one family's struggle to survive the genocide in Cambodia. I've read about the horrors of the Khmer Rouge--this book doesn't really show that. This genocide looks like every other genocide by a tyrannical ruler and I'm not sure this was the case. I'd like to have seen a story that didn't hold back. Perhaps this is just how it was for this family.

Also, this story is a bit chaotic. Too many characters and an artistic style that makes it difficult
Dakota Morgan
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Year of the Rabbit is one of those books where I didn't actually like it, but it's an important, gut-wrenching read so it skews my typical rating system. The book follows one family's descent into the madness of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. From the fall of Phnom Penh to forced labor in the fields to child spies and Vietnamese invasion - it's a harrowing tale that never really lets up.

The "important read" factor boosts Year of the Rabbit at least a star: this isn't exactly a polished book
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Before visiting Cambodia, I knew nothing about the Khmer Rouge and the genocide they committed. So I was excited (as one can be considering the subject matter) to hear that Drawn & Quarterly was releasing a non-fiction comic about it. It's always been deeply staggering to me to find out about some horrible thing that happened in history. "WHY DID NO ONE TEACH ME ABOUT THIS BEFORE?!" I suppose K-12 history/social studies can't teach you everything that's ever happened, but isn't the terrible stuf ...more
Aug 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Veasna's family story is horrifying and incredible; he was born three days after the Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia. He doesn't shy away from the atrocities of the following years, and shows how various members of his extended family managed to stay alive through their wits, resilience, and often outright luck. At times, the storytelling felt a bit scattered.

Veasna tries to relate the macro picture of what was happening in Phnom Penh, power struggles and purges among the Khmer Rouge, tec
When I was in college, I worked at a computer store near my dad’s house, and the money manager was a woman called Orphir. I always thought her name was really beautiful, and one day after I had counted my till and she was done counting the take for the day, I asked her about it. She told me she was from Cambodia, but I don’t recall her going into any more detail than that. I told my mom about it later, and that’s when I learned about the Khmer Rouge. A few weeks ago, I listened to the podcast Di ...more
Dec 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This graphic novel is fantastic. I never knew much about the Khmer Rouge regime outside of what my own parents have told me (from a Vietnamese perspective) and the little research that I did in high school for a school project, so reading this was enlightening and heartbreaking at the same time. Through this comic, you will learn of all the struggles the Cambodian people faced. I really like that it was centered around one family’s story, as well as the graphics that show the family tree, the da ...more
Mateen Mahboubi
Oct 29, 2020 rated it liked it
A story of suffering and struggle under an oppressive regime, Veasna tells the story of an extended family living in the dark days of the Khmer Rouge. While the personal scale was appreciated, at times missing the wider context hurt the overarching narrative of what else was happening in the country. Also because the family was so large, at time it became difficult to keep track of who was who without referencing the provided family tree.
Benjamin Crevier
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Very touching story. Lots of historical info that really add up to the reading experience. Great drawings.
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Impressive telling of his family's history in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Hard book to enjoy but an important book. ...more
Graphic novel about one family's struggle to escape from the Khmer Rouge in late 1970s Cambodia. Impressive story and beautifully drawn, even if at times it was a bit hard to follow the story line. Even in drawings, my brain has a harder time distinguishing non-write faces and non-Western names. Darn bias. ...more
Steve Portigal
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
I recently watched "Don't Think I've Forgotten: Cambodia's Lost Rock and Roll" (it's on Kanopy) which is a history of Cambodian music before and during the horrible upheaval and oppression. It served as a really helpful history lesson that I didn't actually know very much about. This book covers some of that same period, mostly the brutal Khmer Rouge era.

I couldn't really connect with this book. It's very sad and very grim and doesn't shy away from telling a true and terrifying story, so of cou
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wonderfully drawn and I loved the fact sheets about different things (a handy chart of what goods could be bartered for others, a list of Khmer Rouge leaders and what happened to them, etc). I liked following all the different family members and journeying with them. A sense of fear looms on almost every page, but it's tempered by moments of kindness, family love, and discussions of resistance/fleeing. I never felt overwhelmed despite the devastating topic. Highly recommend if you're looking to ...more
Feb 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is an important part of history to know about.

The book addresses that need, in part.

The book feels too scattered and simple in terms of its storytelling. There are too many story threads and too many characters to track and follow; the structure doesn't help. And unfortunately, the writing is awkward; the language feels unnatural and simplistic. At a certain point, I just skimmed and sped-read this to get to the more important parts.
Mar 10, 2021 rated it liked it
Tian Veasna's graphic novel feels artistic influences by other comic book artists based in France like Aya. It has a family tree of the characters at the front of the book. That's necessary because I find it hard with this style of comic book to distinguish all the characters immediately. There is also a lot of story to tell and the novel moves on fairly quickly, so some characters are only present for a moment. It takes a while for you to focus on the main characters of the story. On the other ...more
Mar 30, 2021 rated it really liked it
Tian Veasna was born in Cambodia three days after the Khmer Rouge takeover, while his entire family was fleeing from Phnom Penh. For the next five years, Veasna and his family traveled from place to place, often narrowly avoiding tragedy as they tried to keep the entire family alive and together. Their efforts somewhat successful, Veasna’s family eventually crossed the Thai border and relocated to France in 1980. Year of the Rabbit gathers their stories and recounts the harrowing experience of l ...more
Ben Truong
Year of the Rabbit is an autobiographical graphic novel written and illustrated by Tian Veasna and translated by Helge Dascher. It recounts the true story of one family’s desperate struggle to survive the murderous reign of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Tian Veasna is a cartoonist and was born just three days after the Khmer Rouge takeover, as his family set forth on the chaotic mass exodus from Phnom Penh.

It's 1975 and Khim, a doctor, Lina, his pregnant wife, Lina, and their extended family are c
Mickey Bits
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best graphic novels I've read the entire year. Compared to the Holocaust of WWII, the Cambodian Genocide is relatively less well-known.

This excellent, moving tale expands the Western reader's knowledge of this time in history and an enlightening look at Cambodian culture.

When one hears of 2 million dead from torture, purges, etc. there is a danger of it not really sinking in —it's all detached and impersonal. But when you examine the experiences in granular detail, when you he
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh, this was so good. What an incredible story of courage and survival in the face of adversity. An important read for these times we live in.

"The alienated and the ignorant will seize power and enslave the learned." -- from the epigraph, an 18th century prophecy by Put Tumneay.

Sadly, I didn't know much about the Khmer Rouge before reading this book aside from just the basic, high-level information. Tian Veasna uses the story of his family to illustrate the impact the Khmer Rouge had upon the Ca
Dec 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was a very beautiful, very difficult book to read. Veasna wrote and drew his own family's history surviving the Khmer Rouge regime in brutally detailed way (Veasna, himself, was only a few days old when the Khmer Rouge regime took over Cambodia). Narratives of how his family survived through the regime were punctuated with small sketches important to their daily lives, include a small infographic of the belongings they were allowed to have (soap, a lighter, etc.) and maps of the areas.

Apr 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
When I was a kid my dad had a friend who escaped the Khmer Rouge with his family when he was still a boy. He wore glasses and told me that one day, his mother took his glasses and buried them in the dirt floor of their home. Soldiers came minutes later and checked their house, but left them alive. Later he learned that anyone wearing glasses, no matter how old, was to be shot on sight, as glasses were a symbol of intellectualism.
I've never forgotten the sheer horror that story inspired in me. N
Linda Klein
Nov 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
At first, I was frustrated with the way the author switched from one story and set of characters abruptly to another story altogether. And often, I felt like I joined that story in the middle, so sometimes I went back through the book to see if there was a connection between what was happening now to a character and what had happened before. Most often, there was not. However, I let go of wanting a traditional narrative structure, and I came to appreciate the real-life feel that this style of na ...more
Dan Clark
Nov 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Year of the Rabbit- every year there are those comics you can hold up as examples of why the medium can be such a powerful tool to tell extremely important stories. That is this book. This depicts just how fragile society is and how quickly it can crumble into chaos.

I have not read much about the genocide that took place in Cambodia in the 70's so getting to see this account of that time was educational to say the least.

What I found the most surprising was how reserved it was in both depicting t
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Cartoonist Tian Veasna was born just a few days after the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia. In Year of the Rabbit, he uses the graphic memoir format to tell the story of his family's experiences. This is a harrowing account of a genocide as it was experienced by his family. In here, he speaks at some point about how it was difficult to get family members who were adults at the time to speak about their experiences- that the pain of revisiting that time made them unwilling or unable to look bac ...more
Jan 30, 2021 rated it liked it
Year of the Rabbit is yet another absorbing and intelligent graphic memoir I've come across the past few years, this one recounting the author/artist's family's escape from Cambodia and the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. It's very reminiscent--understandably-- of the The Killing Fields. And just as with that film, it's a story of survival and immense luck. At so many junctures, Veasna's family could easily have been murdered or sent to prison. Indeed, some of the extended family never made it out o ...more
Mar 23, 2021 rated it really liked it
I hear so much about the genocide by the Khmer Rouge, mostly from movies like First They Killed My Father, and The Killing Fields. However, this graphic novel is about a family that survived the genocide, although with great losses. Linh and Khim live with Linh's family in Phnom Pehn. Just before the birth of their first son the Khmer Rouge comes to occupy Phnom Penh and the entire family is forced to evacuate to the countryside. There they are forced to hide their previous occupations, and work ...more
Ryan Fung
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Born just three days after the fall of Phnom Penh into the hands of the Khmer Rouge, author Tian Veasna remembers the story of his family's struggle to survive the great political and cultural upheaval of 1975 Cambodia. Though some background is shared at the opening of chapters to provide historical context, the majority of the book is narrative in nature: a memoir stitched together from the memories of three generations, and beautifully rendered. The story is a little stark at times and lackin ...more
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found this book the most moving graphical novel I've read. It's lovingly illustrated with excellent use of images, colour and text to bring home the horrors experienced by the author and his family under the Khmer Rouge murderous regime.

It is a personal account and this makes it all the more sad to read as you follow the family through their years of suffering. I am glad the book ended in the modern day so we learnt about the survivors and their new lives.

It's very brave of the family to part
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Tian Veasna was born in Cambodia in 1975, three days after the Khmer Rouge came to power. He moved to France with his parents in 1980, where he graduated from Strasbourg’s École des Arts Décoratifs in 2001. After that he returned to Cambodia for the first time, offering drawing classes as part of a United Nations humanitarian project. Since then Veasna has worked in publishing, taught visual art, ...more

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