What to read before going to… Cambodia

28 Mar

Title- First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

Author- Loung Ung

The Plot- This autobiography follows the story of Loung, a young  Cambodian girl, the daughter of a military official, from the evacuation of Phnom Penh and the next 4 years under the Khmer Rouge and suffering from illness, hunger and constant fear of execution in numerous work camps.

I read this book after it was recommended to me by a friend who I travelled to Cambodia with. Unfortunately the Khmer Rouge is an unavoidable part of travelling to that beautiful part of the world and this book truly is a raw account of one Cambodian’s journey through years of oppression. The most difficult part when reading it is remembering that this is a child’s story. The book is so well written that the age of the main protagonist is so easy to forget. Loung was only 6 when she was forced to leave her home in Phnom Penh and shifted from work camps to eventually become a child soldier. What were you doing when you were 6? It’s a story that puts life into perspective for you. It’s not an easy book to read because of the theme but it’s also a book that is hard to put down.

The tragic thing is that when you actually visit Cambodia, most people over the age of 40 will have very similar stories to tell. I had a man tell me about how his parents and siblings died and he spent years under the Khmer Rouge standing in a field as a scarecrow, so many childhoods were lost in 4 years. This is a truly great story of survival and one that everyone should read!



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