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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

(Daughter of Cambodia #1)

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  32,347 ratings  ·  3,002 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
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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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
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
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
♥ 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?
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Winter Sophia Rose
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Heartbreaking, Encouraging, Gripping & Powerful! An Eye Opening, Exceptional Read! I Loved It! ...more
Kristy K
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Heartbreaking and tragic. Ung's story is one that must be read.
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
❆ Crystal ❆
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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
Nov 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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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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