First They Killed My Father

  • by Loung Ung
  • Narrated by Tavia Gilbert
  • 9 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.


What the Critics Say

"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)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

The most emotionally effecting thing I've heard.

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The last days last few days I've been researching the Cambodian genocide, and recently began listening to the book "First They Killed My Father."

It is the most emotionally affecting thing I have ever read or heard. Sadly, few Americans know of it.

Pol Pot, a communist, an idealist, thought that he had a better solution than the marketplace for distributing resources and forcibly evacuated the capital city of Phnom Penh. In the countryside, 2.2 million people died in anguish because one man used the power of government to fulfill his idea that he could come up with a better way for humans to live and distribute resources than capitalism. The people were forced into villages and forced to labor, food was distributed communally and clothing was even rigorously enforced to ensure that no one stood above the others. Forced equality. If you were suspected of being a capitalist, your life would be snuffed. In fact, if you wore eyeglasses, it was an indication that you were literate, and your life was taken by the government. But, the reality was that corruption reigned, with leaders choosing how to redistribute resources. Everyone suffered, but not equally. The politically connected survived, taking from those that worked hard by force, not through mutually beneficial trade. Millions died because of Pol Pot's arrogance and because of forced income redistribution.

Nobody took a stand. Like the frog in the pot, they slowly suffered, hoping it would get better.

It truly reminds me of the president of the United States, a man who forces his agenda on the American people in the name of equality, disregarding all common sense and completely disregarding the marketplace. Neither man wants to inflict terrible hardship, but they think they have a better way. We all pay for their arrogance.

It also reminds me why I am proud to be an American. An American is not a people, or an area contained by borders, to be an American is to believe that you as an individual are free and what you have made is yours.

As an American, I am proud that we have the Second Amendment. Despite what the liberals say, it is crystal clear as to the intent of what the Second Amendment was. Our founders intended every able bodied man to own a weapon, and if the contractual agreement between the government and the people of America was ever violated, every able-bodied citizen was to rise up to utterly destroy it.

When I hear these horrible stories of these families suffering in anguish, it reminds me of my family and what I would do if my little 9 month son were somehow harmed.

In Cambodia, nobody rose up to stop these thugs, the government. They were a mob and sanctioned by the government, they raped and they took. They were able to, because there was no one to fight back.

I own a AR-15, a weapon of war, that if necessary, I will turn on my own government to defend my family. I am not ashamed to speak openly of it any longer. I will not die as a slave. I will definitely die someday, but I will die free, one way or the other.

I challenge you to read this book to remind you of why freedom is important, and what freedom really is.

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- Jeremy

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...
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- Gillian "SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-29-2011
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio