A Cambodian Tale that Makes Me Remember

Having just read some of the first chapters in the recently printed Khmer translation of Luong Ung’s “First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers,” the book has struck me as a compelling read.

All of the things that the 30-something author put in the book led me down the path of her past, through both happy and terrible times. In the first two chapters of the book, I was greatly interested in the way Ung, just five years old when the Khmer Rouge invaded Phnom Penh, acted when her family had to flee. She was very curious, a clever girl who remembered all of the things that happened to her.

As I read on, I was lured into the story of Ung and her family. My feelings of pity for the young girl grew strong as I read about how the young girl, born to a middle class family in Phnom Penh, was forced with her family out of their home and into an existence they had never dreamed of.

Luong Ung’s father, a Lon Nol military police captain, her mother and two sisters all died under Khmer Rouge rule.

Ung’s book is among the first from a survivor to sell well in the West, telling the world about the terrible life that existed under the Khmer Rouge regime. It reflects the whole picture of misery and hardship that Cambodians endured during the Khmer Rouge.

The book reminded me as well that this was just one girl’s memory. Other Cambodian children and people who experience one of the 20th century’s worst atrocities must have many more things to tell the world.

Anyone who can hold a book and read it will find it enjoyable to read Ung’s book, published with an easy to read Khmer font.

After my reading, I valued Ung’s book very highly. I think this book is fantastic that they could print in Khmer for Khmer readers and it will help young Cambodians remember the past that we experienced and I hope all younger generations would learn valuable lessons from this book and work to prevent genocide from ever happening again.

A final thought: maybe we all want to reflect about the Khmer Rouge, and this book halps us do that. When I showed it to my cousin, he took it from my hands and read a few pages. He was quickly enticed by the story but I had to take the book back.

Now he wants to borrow it.

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