Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 2000

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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers is a nonfiction memoir by the Cambodian tác giả Loung Ung. A survivor of the 1970s Cambodian genocide under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime, Ung wrote the story as an adult looking back on her childhood years between the ages of five and nine. Although some experts criticized the book over its historical accuracy, other critics lauded Ung for capturing the emotional truth of her experiences. (Tuon, Bunkong. “Inaccuracy and Testimonial Literature: The Case of Loung Ung’s First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers.” MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States, vol. 38, no. 3, 2013.) In 2017, Angelina Jolie directed a Golden Globe-nominated film adaptation of First They Killed My Father.

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On a hot mid-April day in 1975, the Khmer Rouge invade Phnom Penh, forcing the Ungs and many other families to evacuate for fear of being killed. Loung, her parents, & her six siblings grab what they can, climb into their truck, & leave the city. Eventually, the gas runs out, forcing the family to lớn walk for seven days to reach the trang chủ of their uncle in the village of Krang Truop, which is run by the Khmer Rouge. Due to lớn the dangers of living in Krang Truop, the family leaves for another village but are unwelcome there too. Finally, in November of 1975, the family settles in a labor camp and village called Ro Leap, where they live for 18 months as the Khmer Rouge slowly starves and kills many Cambodians, including some of Ung’s family members.

The first Ung khổng lồ die is Loung’s older sister Keav, who succumbs lớn food poisoning & dysentery in a filthy infirmary. Six months before her death, Keav was taken from her family lớn work in a camp for teenage girls. Loung’s father, known as Pa, is the next khổng lồ die. In December of 1976, Khmer Rouge soldiers come khổng lồ the Ungs’ hut và ask for help with their truck. They promise he will be back the next day, but he never returns.

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Eventually, Loung is taken lớn another labor camp; this one is filled with strong girls, lượt thích her. While she is at the camp, Loung dreams that something happened to her mother. She quickly returns khổng lồ Ro Leap where she learns that her mother and baby sister, Geak, were killed. This is all too much for Loung, who loses consciousness for three days. After returning khổng lồ camp, the leader punishes her. Later, the camp is attacked by the Khmer Rouge who claim that the attacks are the work of the Vietnamese, whom the girls are taught to fear. When the attacks worsen, the girls are forced khổng lồ leave, & Loung ends up in an infirmary. There, she coincidentally meets her remaining family.

As the story continues và the family reunites, their next goal is khổng lồ get as far away from the Khmer Rouge as possible. Once the family finds safety with Vietnamese & Cambodian friends, they arrange for Loung and her older brother Meng to move to America. Loung và Meng end up in a refugee camp in Thailand, where they live an extremely poor existence until an American family sponsors them. After many years living successfully in America, Loung returns khổng lồ Cambodia to reconnect with her remaining family members.

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 và 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 age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot"s Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung"s family lớn flee and, eventually, khổng lồ disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed.

Harrowing yet hopeful, Loung"s powerful story is an unforgettable tài khoản of a family shaken and shattered, yet miraculously sustained by courage & love in the face of unspeakable brutality.

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Loung Ung was the National Spokesperson for the “Campaign for a Landmine free World,” a program of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for co-founding the International chiến dịch to Ban Landmines. Ung lectures extensively, appears regularly in the media, and has made more than thirty trips back lớn Cambodia. She is also the author of Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind and Lu
Lu in the Sky

Read an Excerpt

phnom penh
April 1975Phnom Penh city wakes early to lớn take advantage of the cool morning breeze before the sun breaks through the haze & invades the country with sweltering heat. Already at 6 A.M. People in Phnom Penh are rushing & bumping into each other on dusty, narrow side streets. Waiters and waitresses in black-and-white uniforms swing open cửa hàng doors as the aroma of noodle soup greets waiting customers. Street vendors push food carts piled with steamed dumplings, smoked beef teriyaki sticks, and roasted peanuts along the sidewalks và begin khổng lồ set up for another day of business. Children in colorful T-shirts và shorts kick soccer balls on sidewalks with their bare feet, ignoring the grunts và screams of the food cart owners. The wide boulevards sing with the buzz of motorcycle engines, squeaky bicycles, and, for those wealthy enough lớn afford them, small cars. By midday, as temperatures climb khổng lồ over a hundred degrees, the streets grow quiet again. People rush home to seek relief from the heat, have lunch, take cold showers, and nap before returning to lớn work at 2 P.M.My family lives on a third-floor apartment in the middle of Phnom Penh, so I am used to the traffic & the noise. We don"t have traffic lights on our streets; instead, policemen stand on raised metal boxes, in the middle of the intersections directing traffic. Yet the city always seems to lớn be one big traffic jam. My favorite way to lớn get around with Ma is the cyclo because the driver can maneuver it in the heaviest traffic. A cyclo resembles a big wheelchair attached to the front of a bicycle. You just take a seat and pay the driver to lớn wheel you around whereveryou want to lớn go. Even though we own two cars và a truck, when Ma takes me lớn the market we often go in a cyclo because we get lớn our destination faster. Sitting on her lap I bounce & laugh as the driver pedals through the congested thành phố streets.This morning, I am stuck at a noodle siêu thị a block from our apartment in this big chair. I"d much rather be playing hopscotch with my friends. Big chairs always make me want to lớn jump on them. I hate the way my feet just hang in the air và dangle. Today, Ma has already warned me twice not to lớn climb & stand on the chair. I settle for simply swinging my legs back & forth beneath the table.Ma and Pa enjoy taking us to lớn a noodle siêu thị in the morning before page authority goes off to work. As usual, the place is filled with people having breakfast. The clang & clatter of spoons against the bottom of bowls, the slurping of hot tea & soup, the smell of garlic, cilantro, ginger, và beef broth in the air make my stomach rumble with hunger. Across from us, a man uses chopsticks lớn shovel noodles into his mouth. Next to him, a girl dips a piece of chicken into a small saucer of hoisin sauce while her mother cleans her teeth with a toothpick. Noodle soup is a traditional breakfast for Cambodians and Chinese. We usually have this, or for a special treat, French bread with iced coffee."Sit still," Ma says as she reaches down khổng lồ stop my leg midswing, but I kết thúc up kicking her hand. Ma gives me a stern look and a swift slap on my leg."Don"t you ever sit still? You are five years old. You are the most troublesome child. Why can"t you be like your sisters? How Will you ever grow up to lớn be a proper young lady?" Ma sighs. Of course I have heard all this before.It must be hard for her khổng lồ have a daughter who does not act lượt thích a girl, khổng lồ be so beautiful và have a daughter like me. Among her women friends, Ma is admired for her height, slender build, and porcelain trắng skin. I often overhear them talking about her beautiful face when they think she cannot hear. Because I"m a child, they feel không lấy phí to say whatever they want in front of me, believing I cannot understand. So while they"re ignoring me, they bình luận on her perfectly arched eyebrows; almond-shaped eyes; tall, straight Western nose; & oval face. At 5"6", Ma is an amazon among Cambodian women. Ma says she"s so tall because she"s all Chinese. She says that some day my Chinese side will also make me tall. I hope so, because now when I stand I"m only as tall as Ma"s hips."Princess Monineath of Cambodia, now she is famous for being proper," Ma continues. "It is said that she walks so quietly that no one ever hears her approaching. She smiles without ever showing her teeth. She talks to lớn men without looking directly in their eyes. What a gracious lady she is." Ma looks at me & shakes her head."Hmm..." is my reply, taking a loud swig of Coca-Cola from the small bottle.Ma says I stomp around lượt thích a cow dying of thirst. She"s tried many times to lớn teach me the proper way for a young lady khổng lồ walk. First, you connect your heel to the ground, then roll the ball of your feet on the earth while your toes curl up painfully. Finally you over up with your toes gently pushing you off the ground. All this is supposed to lớn be done gracefully, naturally, and quietly. It all sounds too complicated and painful to me. Besides, I am happy stomping around."The kind of trouble she gets into, while just the other day she-" Ma continues to Pa. But is interrupted when our waitress arrives with our soup."Phnom Penh special noodles with chicken for you & a glass of hot water," says the waitress as she puts the steaming bowl of translucent potato noodles swimming in clear broth before Ma.