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Publisher's Summary

One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung's family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed. Harrowing yet hopeful, Loung's powerful story is an unforgettable account of a family shaken and shattered, yet miraculously sustained by courage and love in the face of unspeakable brutality.

©2000 Loung Ung (P)2011 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Ung's memoir should serve as a reminder that some history is best not left just to historians but to those left standing when the terror ends." ( Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5.0
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Story

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  • Gillian
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 01-27-15

Brutal, Heartbreaking

The trials held against some of the last surviving perpetrators of the Cambodian genocide this past October really had me interested in looking into some of books out there on the subject. After listening to the deplorable "Soul of a Tiger," "First They Killer My Father" was so hard hitting as to be almost unbearable. It's extraordinary the way Loung Ung's character develops from a naive, whiny child (whiny because she hasn't a clue as to how dangerous the situation is) to a desperate individual who would do anything to survive, even if it means stealing food, killing sparrows, whatever. This is starvation and desperation at its most devastating.
This is not a light listen, but it's a good one. Just be prepared for some heartbreak, some hopelessness. But some love there too.
That said, you'll never think of earthworms the same way again...

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Daryl
  • Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 07-31-12

An eye-opening look into an unknown world

Would you listen to First They Killed My Father again? Why?

Yes. it was a difficult read, so I had to pick it up and put it down, but it was captivating and tragic.

Have you listened to any of Tavia Gilbert’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I don't believe I have... but I will have to check out more of her material; she did an amazing job on this one.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Gawler, Australia
  • 10-09-12

excellent and very moving true story

What did you love best about First They Killed My Father?

the whole story -a recall of a terrible time

What other book might you compare First They Killed My Father to and why?

nothing compares

Which scene was your favorite?

the most tragic was when they took her father away, very very moving!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

most definetly!

Any additional comments?

it made me appreciate the wonderful live I have and how easily this could be taken away1

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Horrible audible

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

The book is great for anyone who likes to read about war children experience from a child perspective.

How could the performance have been better?

The audible version was intolerable to listen to. It took away from the authenticity of the story because of the western readers voice, not only that but her pronunciation of Cambodian words are cringing.

Any additional comments?

Please find readers that can at least pronounce the words correctly and have the right intonation for that culture. The interpretation of the reading and pronunciation takes away from the story and makes me cringe to hear the horrible pronunciation.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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simply beautiful

very touching book. gave a very good overview of the Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia. I would absolutely recommend the read or the listen of this order book....

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Great and harrowing story of survival

I would definitely recommend this book to a friend. The only thing that I wish there had been was more historical and factual information about the reign of pol pot. As far as a first person memoir in an event like this, this book was well told and easy to listen to. I will have my kids listen to this when they are old enough. Because of details of rape, I would say 13+

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Moving story of survival

Could not stop listening to this chilling true story of strength and survival. Great novel!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A story similar to my parent's individual stories

A story that echoes many hundreds I've heard from elders. i though it was well written. though the pronunciations of many thing were different from my native tongue, it did not throw me off. the reminders were so vivid in my mothers eye's she told me she couldn't finish. it mirrored many things my parents told me when i would complain, and i would shut up because nothing i was going through was like that, it's a little different when you meet the characters in a story and visually see the effects of the aftermath. My father escaped with a khmer rouge child soldier whom i call uncle till this day. I wish I had documented these campfire stories because that generation is fading fast and only child survivors like the author, my parents and their contemporaries still remain. This book struck a chord with me and made me appreciate the ones who came before me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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an amazing story, but rather poorly written

interesting to learn about this period through a child's eyes. The writing is repetitive and unsophisticated, but still paints a compelling picture.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Point Clare, Australia
  • 01-03-12

Amazing, heartbreaking - A must read!

The atrocities surrounding events in this book sound like they should be deep in our past; however they were merely 30 years ago. This is an amazing and heartbreaking story told from the inside through the eyes of an intelligent young girl. I have recommended this book to many family and friends. It really does show all sides of human nature and opens your eyes to what people are capable of. A must read!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • GRAHAMBELL1981
  • 05-18-15

Mind bogling.

Hard to listen to in places. A diary of a most shameful period in human history. Important that it is known and learned from.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jay Acharya
  • 10-08-17

Gripped from the first line

This is an autobiographical view of a young girl who has witnessed so much and experienced so much at such a young age. Luong Ung, like many young children her age was displaced from her comfortable life to that of something I could never describe the way she did in her book. Considering this was in the 1970’s, the story I am sure resonates today in the harsh and unpredictable landscape we live in today.

The book is far superior to the movie, which is amazing - but the story is more detailed from such a young naive and innocent mind and frantic and dramatic and most of all true! Although written by an older Luong, she has captured her younger selfs thoughts amazingly.

Tavia Gilbert read the story with a gift of expression that could only be captured by someone with her talents.

I truly enjoyed this story from start to finish. With tears in my eyes at many points and also a few laughs, as of course it is a child telling a story. But the times listening to this during my long flights instead of watching movies, flight attendants kept making sure I was ok as they were watching a grown man with tears In his eyes.

Simply beautiful. Engaging. Thought provoking. True.

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  • sasha pattinson
  • 10-30-16

omg

didn't enjoy the narrator but that is such a first world problem. hideous events described in all their brutal colours.
this happened in my lifetime. Syria is happening now. and what are we doing?...standing by and watching.
Mankind is horrid and we should be socially responsible enough to consider ourselves World Citizens and not allow these things to happen....but we never learn. Genocide repeats and repeats.
I just feel so sorry for Cambodia as a nation and for all its people who lived and survived such horrific times.
don't read this if u r fragile. do read this to understand a nation and it's people. leaves little to the imagination.

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  • BB
  • 03-02-16

Extremely emotional but amazingly compelling.

The story is incredible touching, it made me cry which normally never happens. The narrator was clear to listen to, the information of the story helps to give a clear picture.

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  • ccunlif1
  • 02-23-16

Amazing. A truly haunting book.

My wife put me into this book, she read it before a visit to Cambodia. 2 months after her return we have planned a trip there together and stated it was useful insight into the time. She would tell me it was such a difficult book to read as she had to keep stopping as she would begin to cry. I echo those words.
Genocide on such a scale a relative short time ago and the fact that I had no real idea it had occurred scares me.
This is a well documented book that tells a story of lives and those around them. Sadly there are many more that will never be told.
To the author and all those who suffered. A fitting tribute. My thanks for opening my eyes

  • Overall
  • shona
  • 12-23-12

Excellent

A very touching and descriptive tale of a child's experience of the war in cambodia. Well told and beautifully written.

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  • Viviane Ara�jo
  • 01-21-15

One of the best books I have had read!

Speechless after such a intense life for a little girl who proved to be strong as her Pa always thought she would be.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Laura
  • 12-14-17

Good story

I enjoyed the story, but it wasn’t the most interesting that I have listened to about the Cambodia civil war. I would recommend- “surviving year zero”- I thought this was more insightful into the actions of the war.

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  • Karen
  • 06-03-16

She used her horrific life experience to help many

This book gave me a greater understanding of the suffering individuals endured during Pol Pot's reign of terror.

The narration by Tavia, intensified the experiences and emotions that Luong, her family and others endured. Loung did not sugarcoat her experiences and thoughts. She described with openness and honesty what she experienced, how she reacted to those experiences and the thoughts that filled her mind.

It is good to see that Loung has not only survived this horrific experience, she has also been able to help many people.

Parents should listen and decide if their child is emotionally mature enough to listen or read this book.