First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

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Repackaged in a new tie-in edition to coincide with the Netflix film produced and directed by Angelina Jolie, a moving story of war crimes and desperate actions, the unnerving strength of a small girl and her triumphant spirit as she survived the Cambodian genocide under Pol Pot’s brutal regime.

Until the age of five, Loung Ung lived in Phnom Penh, one of seven children of a high-ranking government official. She was a precocious child who loved the open city markets, fried crickets, chicken fights, and sassing her parents. While her beautiful mother worried that Loung was a troublemaker—that she stomped around like a thirsty cow—her beloved father knew Loung was a clever girl.

When Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army stormed into Phnom Penh in April 1975, Ung’s family fled their home and moved from village to village to hide their identity, their education, their former life of privilege. Eventually, the family dispersed in order to survive. Loung trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, while other siblings were sent to labor camps. As the Vietnamese penetrated Cambodia, destroying the Khmer Rouge, Loung and her surviving siblings were slowly reunited.

Bolstered by the shocking bravery of one brother, the courage and sacrifices of the rest of her family—and sustained by her sister’s gentle kindness amid brutality—Loung forged on to create for herself a courageous new life. Harrowing yet hopeful, insightful and compelling, this story is truly unforgettable.

 

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Additional Information

Publisher
Harper Collins
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Published on
Oct 12, 2010
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780062036544
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Military
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
History / Asia / Southeast Asia
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A gripping and definitive portrait of the man who headed one of the most enigmatic and terrifying regimes of modern times

In the three and a half years of Pol Pot's rule, more than a million Cambodians, a fifth of the country's population, were executed or died from hunger. An idealistic and reclusive figure, Pol Pot sought to instill in his people values of moral purity and self-abnegation through a revolution of radical egalitarianism. In the process his country descended into madness, becoming a concentration camp of the mind, a slave state in which obedience was enforced on the killing fields.

How did a utopian dream of shared prosperity mutate into one of the worst nightmares humanity has ever known? To understand this almost inconceivable mystery, Philip Short explores Pol Pot's life from his early years to his death. Short spent four years traveling throughout Cambodia interviewing the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge movement, many of whom have never spoken before, including Pol Pot's brother-in-law and the former Khmer Rouge head of state. He also sifted through the previously closed archives of China, Russia, Vietnam, and Cambodia itself to trace the fate of one man and the nation that he led into ruin.

This powerful biography reveals that Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were not a one-off aberration but instead grew out of a darkness of the soul common to all peoples. Cambodian history and culture combined with intervention from the United States and other nations to set the stage for a disaster whose horrors echo loudly in the troubling events of our world today.

On April 17, 1975, the Khmer Rouge entered Phnom Penh to open a new and appalling chapter in the story of the twentieth century. On that day, Pin Yathay was a qualified engineer in the Ministry of Public Works. Successful and highly educated, he had been critical of the corrupt Lon Nol regime and hoped that the Khmer Rouge would be the patriotic saviors of Cambodia.In Stay Alive, My Son, Pin Yathay provides an unforgettable testament of the horror that ensued and a gripping account of personal courage, sacrifice and survival. Documenting the 27 months from the arrival of the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh to his escape into Thailand, Pin Yathay is a powerful and haunting memoir of Cambodia's killing fields.With seventeen members of his family, Pin Yathay were evacuated by the Khmer Rouge from Phnom Penh, taking with them whatever they might need for the three days before they would be allowed to return to their home. Instead, they were moved on from camp to camp, their possessions confiscated or abandoned. As days became weeks and weeks became months, they became the "New People," displaced urban dwellers compelled to live and work as peasants, their days were filled with forced manual labor and their survival dependent on ever more meager communal rations. The body count mounted, first as malnutrition bred rampant disease and then as the Khmer Rouge singled out the dissidents for sudden death in the darkness.Eventually, Pin Yathay's family was reduced to just himself, his wife, and their one remaining son, Nawath. Wracked with pain and disease, robbed of all they had owned, living on the very edge of dying, they faced a future of escalating horror. With Nawath too ill to travel, Pin Yathay and his wife, Any, had to make the heart-breaking decision whether to leave him to the care of a Cambodian hospital in order to make a desperate break for freedom. "Stay alive, my son," he tells Nawath before embarking on a nightmarish escape to the Thai border.First published in 1987, the Cornell edition of Stay Alive, My Son includes an updated preface and epilogue by Pin Yathay and a new foreword by David Chandler, a world-renowned historian of Cambodia, who attests to the continuing value and urgency of Pin Yathay's message.
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