First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung

a nutshell: this compelling memoir relives a child’s horrendous struggle for survival under the Khmer Rouge regime

a line“I think how the world is still somehow beautiful even when I feel no joy at being alive within it”

an image: in the later chapters Ung repeatedly expresses immense self-hatred and guilt for the fact that, as a very young child, she once secretly took a handful of rice from the family stockpile during one of their times of extreme starvation and thus deprived her baby sister of a few grains; the way in which this memory plagues her is excruciatingly sad

a thought: the author’s introductory note pays tribute to the two million Cambodians – a quarter of the country’s population – who were systematically killed by the Khmer Rouge through execution, starvation, disease and forced labour from 1975-9; she adds, “If you had been living in Cambodia during this period, this would be your story too”

a fact: this memoir has been adapted into a film (produced and directed by Angelina Jolie), which premiered in 2017 in Siem Reap, Cambodia


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