Cover image for First they killed my father : a daughter of Cambodia remembers
Title:
First they killed my father : a daughter of Cambodia remembers
Author:
Ung, Loung.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins Publishers, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
xi, 240 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, map ; 25 cm
Language:
English
Reading Level:
920 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.0 15.0 56569.

Reading Counts RC High School 7.5 21 Quiz: 24303 Guided reading level: NR.
Personal Subject:
ISBN:
9780060193324

9780062561305
Format :
Book

Available:*

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DS554.8 .U54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
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Summary

Summary

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. 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 account of a family shaken and shattered, yet miraculously sustained by courage and love in the face of unspeakable brutality.


Author Notes

Loung Ung is National Spokesperson for the "Campaign for a Landmine Free World," a program of the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation. VVAF founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines which was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. Ung lectures extensively throughout the United States and appears regularly in the media.


Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1975, Ung, now the national spokesperson for the Campaign for a Landmine-Free World, was the five-year-old child of a large, affluent family living in Phnom Penh, the cosmopolitan Cambodian capital. As extraordinarily well-educated Chinese-Cambodians, with the father a government agent, her family was in great danger when the Khmer Rouge took over the country and throughout Pol Pot's barbaric regime. Her parents' strength and her father's knowledge of Khmer Rouge ideology enabled the family to survive together for a while, posing as illiterate peasants, moving first between villages, and then from one work camp to another. The father was honest with the children, explaining dangers and how to avoid them, and this, along with clear sight, intelligence and the pragmatism of a young child, helped Ung to survive the war. Her restrained, unsentimental account of the four years she spent surviving the regime before escaping with a brother to Thailand and eventually the United States is astonishing--not just because of the tragedies, but also because of the immense love for her family that Ung holds onto, no matter how she is brutalized. She describes the physical devastation she is surrounded by but always returns to her memories and hopes for those she loves. Her joyful memories of life in Phnom Penh are close even as she is being trained as a child soldier, and as, one after another, both parents and two of her six siblings are murdered in the camps. Skillfully constructed, this account also stands as an eyewitness history of the period, because as a child Ung was so aware of her surroundings, and because as an adult writer she adds details to clarify the family's moves and separations. Twenty-five years after the rise of the Khmer Rouge, this powerful account is a triumph. 8 pages b&w photos. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Booklist Review

Ung was only five when the Khmer Rouge began their murderous siege of Cambodia in 1975. By its end in 1979, approximately two million Cambodians had died from torture, execution, or starvation. Ung begins her narration as the family was sent into exile, vividly describing their struggle for survival in a world gone mad. Only half of her family will survive. Few families were left whole when the campaign was over. What sets Ung apart is that her childlike innocence, so evident early in her story, gives way to a crude but certain instinct for survival. As a child laborer in a garden she witnesses the daily burials of whole families. "I see them dig a hole underneath the hut of the dead family. . . . There were times when such scenes terrified me, but I have seen the ritual performed so many times that I feel nothing." At one point, she looks hopefully at a beautiful sunset. "Maybe there are gods living up there after all. When are they going to come down and bring peace to our land?" But then her father is taken away, never to be seen again. Unlike other major horrors of this century, there has been little literature from the Cambodian tragedy. Perhaps Ung's memoir should serve as a reminder that some history is best not left just to historians but to those left standing when the terror ends. (See also Chandler, p.741.) --Marlene Chamberlain


Library Journal Review

In this "Age of Holocaust," Ung's memoir of her childhood in Pol Pot's Cambodia offers a haunting parallel to the writings of Anne Frank in the Europe of Adolf Hitler. A precocious, sparkling youngster, Ung was driven from Phnom Penh in April 1975 to relatives in the countryside, then to Khmer Rouge work camps. Here she recalls her fear, hunger, emotional pain, and loneliness as her parents and a sister were murdered and another sister died from disease. By the 1979 freeing of Cambodia by Vietnamese troops, she was a hardened, vengeful nine year old. Although written nearly 20 years later, this painful narrative retains an undeniable sense of immediacy. The childlike memories are adroitly placed in a greater context through older family members' descriptions of the political and social milieu. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/99.]--John F. Riddick, Central Michigan Univ. Lib., Mt. Pleasant (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


School Library Journal Review

YA-Ung was a headstrong, clever child who was a delight to her father, a high-ranking government official in Phnom Penh. She was only five when the Khmer Rouge stormed the city and her family was forced to flee. They sought refuge in various camps, hiding their wealth and education, always on the move and ever fearful of being betrayed. After 20 months, Ung's father was taken away, never to be seen again. Her story of starvation, forced labor, beatings, attempted rape, separations, and the deaths of her family members is one of horror and brutality. The first-person account of Cambodia under the reign of Pol Pot will be read not only for research papers but also as a tribute to a human spirit that never gave up. YAs will applaud Ung's courage and strength.-Katherine Fitch, Rachel Carson Middle School, Fairfax, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

First They Killed My Father A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers Chapter One phnom penh April 1975 Phnom Penh city wakes early to take advantage of the cool morning breeze before the sun breaks through the haze and invades the country with sweltering heat. Already at 6 A.M. people in Phnom Penh are rushing and bumping into each other on dusty, narrow side streets. Waiters and waitresses in black-and-white uniforms swing open shop 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 and begin to set up for another day of business. Children in colorful T-shirts and shorts kick soccer balls on sidewalks with their bare feet, ignoring the grunts and screams of the food cart owners. The wide boulevards sing with the buzz of motorcycle engines, squeaky bicycles, and, for those wealthy enough to afford them, small cars. By midday, as temperatures climb to 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 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 and 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 be one big traffic jam. My favorite way to 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 wheel you around wherever you want to go. Even though we own two cars and a truck, when Ma takes me to the market we often go in a cyclo because we get to our destination faster. Sitting on her lap I bounce and laugh as the driver pedals through the congested city streets. This morning, I am stuck at a noodle shop 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 jump on them. I hate the way my feet just hang in the air and dangle. Today, Ma has already warned me twice not to climb and stand on the chair. I settle for simply swinging my legs back and forth beneath the table. Ma and Pa enjoy taking us to a noodle shop in the morning before Pa goes off to work. As usual, the place is filled with people having breakfast. The clang and clatter of spoons against the bottom of bowls, the slurping of hot tea and soup, the smell of garlic, cilantro, ginger, and beef broth in the air make my stomach rumble with hunger. Across from us, a man uses chopsticks to 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 to stop my leg midswing, but I end 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 be a proper young lady?" Ma sighs. Of course I have heard all this before. It must be hard for her to have a daughter who does not act like a girl, to be so beautiful and have a daughter like me. Among her women friends, Ma is admired for her height, slender build, and porcelain white skin. I often overhear them talking about her beautiful face when they think she cannot hear. Because I'm a child, they feel free to say whatever they want in front of me, believing I cannot understand. So while they're ignoring me, they comment on her perfectly arched eyebrows; almond-shaped eyes; tall, straight Western nose; and 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 men without looking directly in their eyes. What a gracious lady she is." Ma looks at me and shakes her head. "Hmm..." is my reply, taking a loud swig of Coca-Cola from the small bottle. Ma says I stomp around like a cow dying of thirst. She's tried many times to teach me the proper way for a young lady to 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 end up with your toes gently pushing you off the ground. All this is supposed to 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 and a glass of hot water," says the waitress as she puts the steaming bowl of translucent potato noodles swimming in clear broth before Ma. First They Killed My Father A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers . Copyright © by Loung Ung. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. ix
Phnom Penh April 1975p. 1
The Ung Family April 1975p. 7
Takeover April 17, 1975p. 17
Evacuation April 1975p. 23
Seven-Day Walk April 1975p. 28
Krang Truop April 1975p. 38
Waiting Station July 1975p. 44
Anglungthmor July 1975p. 50
Ro Leap November 1975p. 56
Labor Camps January 1976p. 69
New Year's April 1976p. 79
Keav August 1976p. 93
Pa December 1976p. 101
Ma's Little Monkey April 1977p. 113
Leaving Home May 1977p. 120
Child Soldiers August 1977p. 129
Gold for Chicken November 1977p. 144
The Last Gathering May 1978p. 151
The Walls Crumble November 1978p. 158
The Youn Invasion January 1979p. 165
The First Foster Family January 1979p. 175
Flying Bullets February 1979p. 184
Khmer Rouge Attack February 1979p. 195
The Execution March 1979p. 203
Back to Bat Deng April 1979p. 209
From Cambodia to Vietnam October 1979p. 218
Lam Sing Refugee Camp February 1980p. 228
Epiloguep. 235
Acknowledgmentsp. 239
Resourcesp. 241