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First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

In this blog post, I will write a summary of "First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers" by Loung Ung, a memoir that recounts the author's harrowing experiences during the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.

The book begins in 1975, when Loung Ung is five years old and living in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, with her parents and six siblings. Her father is a high-ranking government official who works for the Khmer Republic, a pro-American regime that is fighting against the communist rebels known as the Khmer Rouge. Loung enjoys a privileged and happy childhood, until one day, the Khmer Rouge captures Phnom Penh and forces everyone to evacuate the city.

Image source: Netflix

Loung's family flees to the countryside, where they have to hide their identity and their former life of wealth and education. They face hunger, disease, violence and constant fear as they move from village to village, trying to survive. Along the way, they encounter Loung's uncle and aunt, who help them for a while, but also warn them of the dangers of being discovered by the Khmer Rouge.

Eventually, the family is separated by the Khmer Rouge, who send Loung and her siblings to different labor camps, where they have to work hard and endure brutal indoctrination. Loung is trained as a child soldier and witnesses atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge against their enemies and their own people. She also suffers from malaria, malnutrition and emotional trauma.

As the Vietnamese army invades Cambodia and overthrows the Khmer Rouge in 1979, Loung and her surviving siblings are reunited. They manage to escape to a refugee camp near the Thai border, where they hope to find their father, who was taken away by the Khmer Rouge earlier. However, they learn that he was killed by them, along with their mother and two sisters.

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The book ends with Loung and her brother Meng leaving for America with an aid worker, while their other siblings stay behind in Cambodia. Loung reflects on her loss and her resilience, and expresses her hope for a better future.

"First They Killed My Father" is a powerful and moving memoir that shows the horrors of war and genocide through the eyes of a child. It also shows the strength and courage of Loung Ung and her family, who survived against all odds. The book is a testament to the human spirit and a reminder of the importance of peace and justice.

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