Thursday, September 22, 2011
Book 78: First They Killed My Father.
About two years after reading “Lucky Girl,” I finally got to read Loung Ung’s “First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers.” It was worth the wait. I got to learn a lot about growing up during the Cambodian genocide which was exactly what I wanted from a memoir dealing with the Cambodian Genocide.
In terms of genocide and Communist regimes, the Khmer Rouge takes the cake. It’s fascinating that a government wanted to create a farming/communist utopian society by destroying cities and education. Which is a great way to get rid of the classes but does devastating things to a population. So I’m curious about what it’s like to live through the Khmer Rouge. I originally read “Lucky Girl” to learn more but I didn’t realize it was her second book when I bought it. But I really enjoyed learning the about how she learned move on.
What impressed me about “First They Killed My Father” was the way she captured her voice as a five year old and as a child in general. Going back to how things were in the city and being fairly well off to trying to pass as a farmer. It seemed so understandable that she was mad that the soldiers lied about when they could back to the city and the confusion. Then you saw how her family adapted but lived in continual fear: fear of having the father’s past being discovered (he worked for the former government as a police officer), that the daughters would be taken advantage of, and fear of dying from hunger/poison food. Unfortunately, despite the Ung family efforts, Loung lost her oldest sister, her father, her mother and her youngest sister during the Khmer Rouge years.
I also liked how the book was able to relate the horror that was felt and the desire to fight against the Khmer Rouge even though there was no way to really fight against it. But there were the mental digs and the unwillingness to just give up.
I would love to read more books on the subject. That way I can really learn more to see just how typical, atypical and to see the other perspectives (from someone who was glad the Khmer Rouge was there). But I know this will take the same kind of research that I do into the Holocaust books. But I’m glad that I was able to read “First They Killed My Father”. It gave me a wealth of knowledge about the Khmer Rouge.