Sara's Reviews > First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
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really liked it
bookshelves: history, memoir

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 wonder at the cruel nature of those who follow such a man and commit such acts. Loung Ung’s account is all the more poignant because her four-year trial began at the age of five. An age when we do not let our children cross the street on their own. Watching soldiers march her father away to his death was not even the worst thing she witnessed. The hatred she so rightfully felt toward the Khmer Rouge and the soldiers of that regime must have been beyond imagination, and must easily have influenced every day of her life since. How horrible to have so much to want revenge for and no one to hold accountable or way to render any semblance of justice.

I couldn’t help chronicling my own life alongside hers. When she was being ripped from her life in Phnom Penh and put onto a road of starvation and hard labor, I was graduating college and agonizing over making a good career choice. When she was being delivered from the refugee camps in Thailand to a future in Vermont, I was getting married and embarking on a new life of my own. Between those two events, she endured the unimaginable and I failed to fully appreciate the golden blessings of my own good fortune.

It is important that we read these kinds of accounts. They enrich our understanding of our own position in the world and they remind us why it is important that we pay attention and care about what is happening beyond our own lives and our own borders.
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Reading Progress

June 4, 2013 – Shelved
June 4, 2013 – Shelved as: to-read
May 25, 2018 – Started Reading
May 25, 2018 – Shelved as: abandoned
May 25, 2018 – Shelved as: history
May 25, 2018 – Shelved as: memoir
May 27, 2018 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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message 1: by Jill (new)

Jill Mackin Very good review.

Sara Thank you, Jill. It is a harrowing story, and I hope I did her justice.

message 3: by Rita (new)

Rita What a heartbreaking, marvelous review, Sara! I would have read this book during a certain period of my life but that is not now. You are a braver woman than I am.

Sara I put it off for a while because I wanted to be in the right mood, but then I realized there is no time when you are in the "mood" for this. I'm very glad I finally sat down with it.

message 5: by Jen (new) - added it

Jen I watched this one but haven't read it. It was a difficult watch so can only imagine reading it. Great review, Sara. I agree - a palate cleanser is in order

Sara Jen wrote: "I watched this one but haven't read it. It was a difficult watch so can only imagine reading it. Great review, Sara. I agree - a palate cleanser is in order"

I did not know there was a film. Not sure I could watch it.

message 7: by Candi (new) - added it

Candi Sara, thank you for introducing this book to me through your very thoughtful review. When we chronicle our own lives at any period in time alongside an atrocity like this, it certainly makes one feel grateful. I have to add this book to my list.

Sara Sometimes it is harder to read about things like this that happened during your lifetime than things that happened in the past. You will be glad to have read it, Candi, but sad that it could be true.

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