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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

(Daughter of Cambodia #1)

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  39,642 ratings  ·  3,274 reviews
From a childhood survivor of the Camdodian genocide under the regime of Pol Pot, this is a riveting narrative of war crimes and desperate actions, the unnerving strength of a small girl and her family, and their triumph of spirit.

One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the a
Paperback, 238 pages
Published April 4th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published January 26th 2000)
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Jessica Kalenik Lounge nearly starves, loses multiple family members through the re-education attempts under the Khmer Rouge regime
Amy Rossman I am sorry you never received an answer. I am curious if you ended up reading it.
I am currently reading it with CP 9th graders. Most of them are truly…more
I am sorry you never received an answer. I am curious if you ended up reading it.
I am currently reading it with CP 9th graders. Most of them are truly enjoying it.(less)

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Average rating 4.27  · 
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Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, history
I read this memoir of Loung Ung on the heels of A Fine Balance, and I must say, now I need to read something light and joyful to regain a little balance of my own. Of course, we all knew, secondhand, what was happening in Cambodia in the 1970s. We heard horrifying tales of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot’s killing fields. But, hearing such news from a reporter, and hearing the account of a victim, are entirely different experiences.

I marvel at the resilience of people who endure such atrocities; I
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Horace Derwent
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing

You know nothing about Cambodia if you don't read this book
Jan 27, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Popsugar Challenge 2020 - A book set in a country beginning with C

This is an own voices account of the Pol Pot regime, the regime that killed two million Cambodians, a quarter of the country's population and its a hard read. It felt physically exhausting to tell you the truth.

I visited Cambodia in 2018 and did not meet a single Cambodian who did not lose their parents in this genocide. I stood in the killing fields and saw the clothing of those murdered start to penetrate the soil surface as wi
Carol She's So Novel꧁꧂
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)
Mariah Roze
Jun 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book broke my heart into pieces...

I read this book for the Diversity in All Forms! book club. If you would like to participate in the discussion here is the link:

"One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung's family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loun
♥ Sandi ❣
3 stars

This book is written by Looung Ung - as a child - the child that ran from the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia during the Vietnam Conflict. Ung spent 4 years running with her family. A young child from a family of 7 children she had lived a wealthy life in Phnom Penh until the Khmer Rouge entered their city. During her flee to freedom her family was displaced and separated. She finally ended up in a refugee camp, on a small schooner with many other people and traveled to America to join one of her
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?
Read for Tales & Co. | Review originally posted on A Skeptical Reader.

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung is a memoir of the author’s childhood living under the Pol Pot regime. It opens right before the Khmer Rouge army storms into Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Ung’s family has to abandon their home and belongings overnight and ends with her migration to the United States. Encapsulated within is the story of a young Chinese-Cambodian girl who survived a genocide that exterminated millions of her
Nov 24, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a heart-breaking memoir. It was very difficult to read . . . but imagine how much harder it was to live it.
Jun 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing

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

aPriL does feral sometimes
It's complex how I inadvertently ended up hearing a lot of stuff from other sides of politics and White Privilege so-to-speak as a young woman, but it is true. I still occasionally end up at dinner tables with people who think and speak openly, not joking, in racist/sexist opinions around me because I am still married to that conservative Republican (now, conservative Democrat) eleven years older than me.

I know a genocide when I hear about them or when I read of them. I have read other books or
The Cambodian Genocide is not one you learn about in schools or often hear people mention when they are asked to recall genocides that have happened in the 20th century, but it should be. This book floored me. I had to often remind myself that what I am reading is a recollection of factual events and not fiction because they were so horrific and described humanity it is utmost cruellest form.

We see the story unfold through Luong's eyes, starting as a 5-year-old. She takes us along on her journe
Oct 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
I had been eager to read Loung Ung's story for a while now, and knew I wanted to before watching Angelina Jolie's film adaptation, but waited because I knew I had to be in the right frame of mind for it. I suggest those interested in reading it as well do the same, because there is so much detail and so many memories that Loung shares in less than 250 pages, and it is, naturally, a very difficult and upsetting book to read. That said, it is an incredibly important book and so worth picking up.

Jan 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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 memoir of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (Kampuchea) from 1975 to 1980. It’s harrowing at times and sad but an important record.

Loung was only 5 when it started. She was the sixth of seven children living comfortably well off in Phnom Phen. Khmer Rouge soldiers forced everyone out of the cities to work in rice fields. The goal was to create a rich socialist, agrarian society (probably the stupidest idea since communism itself). Loung has a clear memory of the time despite her age. She is
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
It's hard to rate such a tragic story. Another country gone mad and a young girl lives through hunger, disease, lose of parents, political inanity, homelessness, hopelessness and war. This is a brutal written memoir of a brutal insane period in Cambodia. ...more
Paul Ataua
Aug 11, 2018 rated it liked it
The three stars are all for the content. The book gives some insight into how it must have felt to be dragged out of your home and forced into the countryside, to see atrocities around you, to lose close members of your family, and not really understand what was happening or what would happen next. I really did, however, have problems with the narrative choice of the book even if I felt I understood what the writer was trying to achieve. The story is told by a five year old who has a cognitive a ...more
Marco Pavan
Aug 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Heartbreaking, Encouraging, Gripping & Powerful! An Eye Opening, Exceptional Read! I Loved It!
Kristy K
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Heartbreaking and tragic. Ung's story is one that must be read. ...more
Oct 08, 2014 rated it liked it
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
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Honestly I don't know how to review this book. I don't think I have ever read a book any more difficult to read due to its graphic nature of such a difficult subject matter.

Loung was only 5 years old when her family was forced out of their home. Luckily (if that's the right word choice) her family was fairly well-to-do so they didn't have to be among the people to walk barefoot (at first) since they had a car. They also had possessions they were able to trade for food. Loung had several siblings
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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.

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

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