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First They Killed My Father

First They Killed My Father

2000 . Biography & Autobiography, Military, Personal Memoirs, History, Asia . Loung Ung

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First They Killed My Father
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About the book

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Loung Ung lived in Phnom Penh, one of seven children of a high-ranking government official. She was a precocious child who loved the open city markets, fried cricket, chicken fights, and sassing her parents. As Loung Ung begins her story, your students will see their own lives reflected in the details of her middle-class life. April 1975: 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. When Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into Phnom Penh in April 1975, Ung's family was forced to flee their home and hide their previous life of privilege. A story of political oppression in Cambodia, First They Killed My Father is all the more striking and intense because it is told from the perspective of a child, one who is thrust into situations that she doesn't understand, as she is only five years old when the terror begins. Loung Ung made many difficult journeys during her Cambodian youth, starting with her evacuation from her hometown. More meaningful were the journeys of self, which led her from a life as the child of a large and privileged family to that of an orphan and work camp laborer. From the deaths of her parents and sisters, students will gain a deeper understanding of the power that family relationships have in our lives. From the loss of economic status, the ways in which our social class can define our days is drawn in sharper relief. From her growing knowledge of the regime that has caused her to suffer, students learn of the vast gulf that often exists between a government's intentions and its actions, between words and deeds. Ung's story offers an account of the warping effects that war can have on an individual, as well as of the possibility of survival and triumph through seemingly insurmountable adversity. Students learn of the daily difficulties that come with an atmosphere of political instability-how neighbors cannot trust one another, how common people become executioners, how a political regime can value the acquisition of weapons before feeding its own people, and the tragedy that necessarily follows. The result is a book of incredible power which demonstrates a small child's will to survive, the forces in her life that sustained her through feelings of rage, love, and guilt to a life of activism against global forces of violence. A history of war that was not on many American's radar screens, Ung's recollections are a chilling testament to what happens when a political movement becomes invulnerable to reason in its quest for power, and also of the ability of the human spirit to endure the harshest conditions. Today, Loung Ung is National Spokesperson for the "Campaign for a Landmine Free World," a program of the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation. VVAF founded the International Campaign to Ban Landmines which was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. Loung Ung lectures extensively throughout the United States. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Year:

2000

Language:

English

Publisher:

HarperCollins

Pages:

240

ISBN:

0060193328 (ISBN13: 9780060193324)

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