Book List: First They Killed My Father

by Lindsay Shapka in ,


From 1975 to 1979-through execution, starvation, disease, and forced labor-the Khmer Rouge systematically killed an estimated two million Cambodians, almost a fourth of the country’s population.

This is a story of survival: my own and my family’s. Though these events constitute my experience, my story mirrors that of millions of Cambodians. If you had been living in Cambodia during this period, this would be your story too
— Loung Ung, author of First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

Loung Ung was five years old and living in Phnom Penh, where her father worked as a high-ranking government official, when the Khmer Rouge took over in April of 1975. No longer safe, her family fled the city, moving from village to village in an attempt to hide their identity. 

First They Killed My Father is Ung’s experience growing up in a world of mass murder, starvation and disease. Told with a child’s voice and viewpoint, she gives a vivid account of the tragedy she encountered daily, and her struggle to mentally and physically survive. It is an unforgettably real story of the acts of unfathomable evil that went on in Cambodia during the period of Khmer Rouge rule.

Despite the dramatic, heartbreaking narrative, I could not put this book down until I reached the end. Loung Ung’s story and indomitable spirit are truly inspiring.