First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

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TitleFirst They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsUng, Loung
PublisherHarper Perennial
ISBN 978-0060856267

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.(from


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Reviews for First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers


Posted By: Matthew David Williams

Posted On: May 30, 2017

First They Killed My Father is the story of Loung Ung's childhood in Cambodia under the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge. The story is narrated by Ung, a child living with her family in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime. Ung's family is forced out of their home in Phnom Penh and into a series of hellish work camps throughout the Cambodian country side. Given meager rations, forced to work continuously and subject to seemingly random executions, Ung’s family quickly deteriorates.

This is a compelling book. The short chapter lengths and the writing style, intended to be from the perspective of a young girl, also make it easily accessible for middle and high school students. I plan on using at least one chapter in class to give my students an understanding of how US actions during and after the Vietnam War had widespread, indirect consequences. Two passages are especially notable - "Pa: December 1976" (pg. 102-108), describing Ung’s father's execution after being 'found out' by the Khmer Rouge and "Leaving Home: May 1977" (pg. 120-128), describing the family's decision to split up after a series of full-family executions.

Despite being a great read, keep in mind that some editing of First the Killed My Father might be required for younger readers (the narrator talks frequently and graphically about death). Additionally, background explanation about the Khamer Rouge and Cambodian history in the 1970s will be necessary for students to fully appreciate the story.