31 August 2002

Book Review: "First they killed my father", by Loung Ung, *****

An unforgettable narrative of war crimes and desperate actions from a childhood survivor of Cambodia's brutal Pol Pot regime.

This is a personal history of the author during the most atrocious years of the Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia (1975-1979). I found the greatest value in the book to be her first hand experience of countless episodes of cruelty and sheer madness. She tell those stories calmly and without deep political analysis, as if she did not really understand what was going on. Which, of course, to a large extent did not, as she was just a child! But this, far from being a weakness, is a strength of the book.

Many books have been written on the politics of the Khmer Rouge regime, and many more will be written as more and more evidence becomes available. However this book will never be out of date, because true first hand experience as candidly seen through the eyes of a child will always be relevant, interesting, and shocking!

I agree with some other reviewers that a weak point in the book is the parts where she admits she does not know what happened and uses her imagination to fill the gap. maybe she could have left those parts out altogether. However this in no way detracts from the overall instructional value of the book.

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