First They Killed My Father

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am


First They Killed My Father
by Loung Ung
Tantor Audio (audiobook)

In 1979, four years after her family escaped Phnom Penh for the countryside, Loung Ung made it to her uncle's village in Kompong Speu province. There, she pretended to have no memory of her years, from five to nine, living under Khmer Rouge rule, when Pol Pot was trying to turn Cambodia into a 'pure agrarian society'. During that time, she lost her father, a military policeman killed because he worked in Lon Nol's government, her mother and two siblings. She was indoctrinated as a soldier, almost raped and near starved: from 1975 to 1979 two million Cambodians died through execution, starvation, forced labour and disease. 'In our culture, it is enough that the oldest child relates the family story,' she writes, adding that children are not asked for opinions or feelings. Having made her way with a brother, via a Thai refugee camp, to the US, Loung Ung now works to rid Cambodia of land mines and to ensure Year Zero is never forgotten. Unfortunately, she does not narrate the audio version of her touching memoir, which suffers from a generic American female voice.