First They Killed My Father

Now I feel guilty for now buying this book from the child street vendor in Phnom Penh. Even if he was kind of relentless.

Unlike some of its other readers, I was able to put this book down from time to time, but I did find it profoundly moving and informative. When I was in Cambodia, and in particular Phnom Penh, I always felt like a non-relative at a funeral. Of course, most people were polite and some were even friendly, but I got the distinct impression that I as intruding somehow. And after reading this book, I realize that I was. This war was an experience that contributed to the current mindset and attitudes of many Cambodians, which an outsider will probably will never truly understand.

Title: First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

Author: Loung Ung

Synopsis: This is the story of the author and her family during the worst of the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror in the late 1970’s. The book starts just before the war and details the subsequent years during which she moved from labor camp to labor camp, lost family members and eventually ended up in a soldier training camp for children. The last chapters are about her escape to a Thai refugee camp and finally, America.

Things That Interested Me: I want to hear more about Chou. The author often calls her weak for letting her emotions show and for not fighting back. At one point she even says, “I will never understand how Chou survived the war” (217). Yet she did. Somewhere, under that weak exterior, has to be an iron core. Just as the author’s rage over those that were taken from her sustained her throughout the war, Chou had to have something that kept her going, too. I suspect that, like their mother, it was love for those still living that prevented her from giving up. I wonder if in the author’s second novel more of Chou’s strength is revealed.

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