BIO: LOUNG UNG is a bestselling author, activist, and co-screenplay writer of First They Killed My Father, the critically acclaimed 2017 Netflix Original Movie produced and directed by Angelina Jolie, based on her memoir, now streaming on Netflix in 190 countries. The film received the “Hollywood Foreign Language Film Award" at the Hollywood Film Awards in 2017.

Loung Ung was only 5 years old when the Khmer Rouge soldiers stormed into her native city of Phnom Penh. Four years later, in one of the bloodiest episodes of the 20th century, some two million Cambodians – out of a population of seven million – had died at the hands of the infamous Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime. Among the victims were both of Loung’s parents, two sisters, and 20 other relatives. In 1980, Loung, her older brother Meng and his wife, escaped by boat to Thailand, where they spent five months in a refugee camp before relocating to the United States in Vermont.

BOOKS: Loung’s bestselling memoir, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, was a 2001 recipient of the Asian/Pacific American Librarians’ Association award for Excellence in Adult Non-fiction Literature, and is widely taught and selected for community read programs in high schools and universities across the U.S. and internationally. First They Killed My Father has been translated into 15 languages, including Khmer, German, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese. Loung’s other books include Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind, and Lulu in the Sky: A Daughter of Cambodia Finds Love, Healing and Double Happiness, both of which are widely taught in high schools and universities.

CAMBODIA & NOW: Since 1995, Loung has made over thirty trips back to Cambodia and has devoted herself to helping her native land heal from the traumas of war. She has worked as an activist to end violence against women, child soldiers, and the Campaign for a Landmine Free World, serving as its spokesperson from 1997-2005 before leaving to focus more on her writing and restaurant business. Today, Loung and her husband Mark Priemer, are co-owners in three successful restaurants and two microbreweries ( in Cleveland, Ohio.

WRITING: In 2013, Loung expanded her activism reach as one of the writers for Girl Rising, a groundbreaking documentary film directed by Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins. Girl Rising tells the stories of 9 extraordinary girls from 9 countries and their stories of forced marriage, domestic slavery, sex trafficking, and gender violence and the power of education to change their worlds. In 2015, Loung co-wrote the screenplay of First They Killed My Father with Angelina Jolie, and served as an executive producer on the film. 

RECOGNITION: The World Economic Forum selected Loung as one of the “100 Global Youth Leaders of Tomorrow.” Among the publications, television and radio shows she has been featured on are The New York Times, Washington Post, USA TodayPeople Magazine, CNN, Nightline, the Diane Rheme Show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and The Today Show, among others. In addition, she has been the subject of documentary films broadcast by German ARTE, Japanese NHK, and the New England Cable Network (NECN).

SPEAKER: Loung has given hundreds of keynote addresses at numerous forums in the U.S. and internationally, including, National Cambodian Heritage Museum, Stanford University, Dartmouth College, Philips Academy, Taipei American School, Hong Kong American School, Facing History and Ourselves, American Library Associations, Women in the World Summit, Omega Institute for Women & Leadership, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Mexico 1 Million Youth Summit, Young Presidents Organization, UN Conference on Women in Beijing, UN Conference Against Racism and Discrimination in South Africa, and UN Conference on Child Soldiers Summit in Nepal.



FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER: An Eyewitness Account of the Cambodian Genocide Through the Eyes of A Girl.
(Themes: Cambodia, Genocide, War, Children in War, Refugees)

From 1975 to 1979, 1.7 to 2 million Cambodians, a quarter of the country’s population, died under the Khmer Rouge regime. One of seven children of a high-ranking governmental official, Loung Ung was only five when the soldiers stormed into her city, forcing Loung’s family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Orphaned, separated from her siblings, Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans where she was taught to hurt and hate. 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 an innocent chatty girl to a silent child soldier to a bewildered refugee in America, Loung Ung shows that your past does not have to predetermine your future. Through her work, writing and activism, Loung shares how she was able to reclaim her voice, redeem herself, and help many others learn of their own stories.

(Themes: Movies, Arts, Cambodia, Genocide, Trauma, Healing)

A writer writes, Loung Ung believes, hence, she was happy for her books to be books.But then, in 2015, her close friend of fifteen years, humanitarian-actor- director Angelina Jolie called to say, ‘let’s make a film together’. Thus begins Loung’s journey of learning to write a screenplay (she co-wrote the screenplay with Angelina Jolie for First They Killed My Father, now a Netflix Original movie streaming in 190 countries), make a movie (she was on set for the four month-shoot in Cambodia), and understand what an executive producer does on a film (help with whatever’s needed). Using film clips, photos, and storytelling, Loung takes the audience through her sometimes-traumatic experience and other times hilarious, inspirational, spiritual but always heart-healinglifting journey of turning her life into film.

RESILIENCE: How We Can Bounce Back Faster and Climb Higher Together
(Themes: Motivational, Inspirational, Overcoming Adversities, Leadership)

We know that in life, we all sometimes fall. Loung Ung confesses to having fallen many times (she tried out for her middle school cheerleading team and was not picked, all of her top college choices rejected her, and when her agent submitted her first book, First They Killed My Father, to twenty-five publishing houses, twenty-four sent back their regrets) and each time, she gets back up and never gives up. Using her personal narrative of life as a war child, a refugee, an activist and writer, Loung explores this theme and how it led to her understanding that being ‘resilient’ isn’t something one accomplishes alone. That in fact, each time we fall, there are usually caring individuals— past, present, and future—there to help us rise, bounce back faster, and climb higher in our work, life, and love.

(Themes: A Writer’s Life, Writing, Activism, Healing, Storytelling)

As a child, Loung Ung never dreamt that she would one day become a writer. After all, English was her 4th language, which she did not learn to read, write, or speak until she was ten years old. Still, Loung loved to read and write, and dutifully recorded her thoughts and dreams in her diaries. Many years later, while working in Washington D.C., on the Campaign to Ban Landmines, she heard the news that Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader had died, and in his last interview, he said that all that he did in Cambodia, he did for love. Loung became enraged. Love, she knew, did not commit genocide or kill 1.7 - 2 million Cambodians. That night, Loung began to write with a new passion—to negate Pol Pot’s vision of love and to tell the story of real love—the love of family, culture, and nation. A journey that ultimately restored her faith in love, courage, and our humanity.

LEADERS ARE MADE, NOT BORN: Five Lessons on How to Lead with More Impact and Heart
(Themes: Activism, Volunteerism, Student Activism, Leadership)

There is a Cambodian Proverb that says; ‘You cannot claim heaven as your own if you are just going to sit under it.’ Today, there are over 1 Million charitable organizations registered in the US, not counting the thousands of international agencies or millions of citizen leaders doing extra-ordinary things on a daily basis to make our world a better and safer place for all. This translates into a lot of people doing good work. People who know that peace is not a wish. Peace is not something you want, dream, or wait for others to deliver. Peace is an action. Many, many actions. Whether in one’s heart, community, or world, peace requires our daily actions. With over three decades of experience as a student activist, a professional agent of change working on campaigns to end violence against women, landmines, and the use of child soldiers, as a writercitizen-restauranteur, Loung shares her five lessons of what it means to lead with impact and heart in our daily lives to make a difference in our world.

LUCKY CHILD: One Refugee's Story of Transformation and a Second Life
(Themes: Refugees, Trauma, Activism, Volunteerism)

At the age of eight, Loung Ung was an orphan living on the streets, eating out of garbage cans, hating the world, and wondering why the world hated her. At age ten, Loung, ‘the lucky child’ was selected by her adult brother, Meng, and his wife, Eang, to emigrate to America as refugees and start their second life. To do this, they had to leave behind Loung’s beloved sister and two brothers, who she would not see again for fifteen years. From a child soldier to a warrior for peace, Loung weaves stories of how the community in Vermont came together to help her refugee family overcome dislocation, trauma, cultural and language barriers to build a successful new life in America. In a world where leaders and heroes are often people with well-known names, fame, and fortune, Loung’s personal heroes are the ordinary people who do extraordinary things on a daily basis. They are the teachers, social workers, counselors, first responders, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, and friends who change our world one person, one action at a time.


GLOBAL CITIZENSHIP: Changing the world through activism, volunteerism, and travel

THE ART OF MEMOIR WRITNG: Six techniques to make your story come to life

TURNING LIFE INTO BOOKS: All the things this author wishes she knew before she published her three memoirs
A writer writes; a published writer has his or her work published. In this workshop, Loung explores with the audience the reasons why and when one may desire to turn his or her life into books. Avid reader and author of three critically acclaimed memoirs, First They Killed My Father; Lucky Child, and Lulu in the Sky. In this workshop, Loung explores the pros and cons of writing memoirs—and shares the tools of when, why, and how to turn a life into books.

First They Killed My Father

From a childhood survivor of Cambodia’s brutal Pol Pot regime comes an unforgettable narrative of war crimes and desperate actions, the unnerving strength of a small girl and her family, and their triumph of spirit. The book is the recipient of the Asian/Pacific American Library Association's Award for Literature (APALA) for "Excellence in Adult Non-Fiction Literature," and has been adapted by Angelina Jolie and the author for the feature film directed and produced by Ms. Jolie for release by Netflix in September, 2017.

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Lucky Child

After enduring years of hunger, deprivation, and devastating loss at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, ten-year-old Loung Ung having survived the Cambodian genocide, became the "lucky child," the only sibling chosen to accompany her eldest brother to America while her surviving sister and two brothers remained behind.  Highlighting the harsh realities of chance and circumstance in times of both war and peace, Lucky Child is ultimately a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the salvaging strength of family bonds.

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Lulu in the Sky

Concluding the trilogy that started with the bestselling memoir First They Killed My Father, Loung Ung describes her college experience and her first steps into adulthood, revealing her struggle to reconcile with her past while moving forward towards happiness. After the violence of the Khmer Rouge and the difficult assimilation experience of a refugee in America, Loung’s daily struggle to keep darkness, anger, and depression at bay will finally find two unexpected allies: the empowering call of activism, and the redemptive power of love. Lulu in the Sky is the story of Loung’s journey to a Cambodian village to reconnect with her mother’s spirit; to a vocation that will literally allow her to heal the landscape of her birth; and to the transformative influence of a supportive marriage to a loving man.

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Telluride: Angelina Jolie's 'First They Killed My Father' Takes Fest by Storm," Hollywood Reporter - 09/02/17 - based on Loung Ung's Memoir

"Telluride: Angelina Jolie's 'First They Killed My Father' Takes Fest by Storm," Hollywood Reporter - 09/02/17 - based on Loung Ung's Memoir

Loung Ung: Cleveland Arts Prize

Speaking about writing.

Loung Ung: Cambodia Then & Now

Slideshow (twice looped) for use as audiences enter auditoriums for Loung's speaking engagements.

About Loung Ung whose memoir has been made into a feature film by Angelina Jolie

Profile video on the bestselling author of First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

The "Girl Rising" Documentary

Loung Ung - Contributing Writer, Cambodian Segment

Angelina Jolie speaks about "First They Killed My Father"

The film is based on Loung Ung's bestselling memoir • Netflix Release, September 2017

Angelina Jolie speaks about the film & Loung Ung

Good Morning America Interview (February 21, 2017)

First They Killed My Father - Netflix Film Trailer

Produced and directed by Angelina Jolie, the film is based on the bestselling memoir by Loung Ung.

First They Killed My Father - Acclaim Trailer

First They Killed My Father is achieving high praise from critics as a stunning cinematic achievement.

Angelina Jolie and Loung Ung at Women In The World (09/11/2017)

Discussing their film "First They Killed My Father."

Q & A with Angelina Jolie and Loung Ung (Netflix)

Angelina Jolie and Loung Ung respond to fan-submitted questions about First They Killed My Father.

Angelina Jolie and Loung Ung at The Hollywood Film Awards (11.05.2017)

Angelina Jolie and Loung Ung accept "Hollywood Foreign Language Film Award"

The Elie Wiesel Memorial Lecture at Boston University with Loung Ung 11/18/2019

Loung shares the story of her life as a child under the Khmer Rouge regime, how she was able to reclaim her voice, redeem herself, and help others le


“Loung was not only an outstanding speaker but also extremely skilled in shaping her passion and commitment to the theme of Seattle Human Rights Day. The audience was riveted to their seats during her presentation and there were few dry eyes in the house. On behalf of all of us, thank you for helping to make this event one of our best ever.” 

Germaine W. Covington, Director, Seattle Office for Civil Rights

“The “All Johnson County Reads the Same Book” planning committee selected Loung Ung’s First They Killed My Father for its community read. It was an outstanding decision… The project culminated in a University of Iowa lecture in which Loung received a standing ovation from an audience of over 500 who were captured by the substance of the subject matter and her passion for social justice.”

Chivy Sok, Deputy Director, University of Iowa, Center for Human Rights

"Loung was just lovely: gracious, vibrant, a riveting speaker. And we greatly appreciated her interest in our work and all the ways she wove it into her interviews and address." (Speaking before an audience of 1,500 at the organization's annual fundraising luncheon, November, 2017, setting a new record.)

Michele Chiuse, Director of Communications, Rosie's Place, Boston, MA

“Loung’s story and presentation was incredibly engaging and captivating as it left an auditorium full of high school students in awe. Loung has the unique ability to tell her story to students by making it relevant to them and making them feel like they experienced her life. She inspired an entire school – teachers and students – and the community by her visit.”

Craig Divis, 2010 Vermont Teacher of the Year, Bellows Falls Union High School

“Loung Ung’s story of surviving a brutal and terrifying childhood in the war zone of Cambodia reveals the depth and resiliency of the human spirit. A master presenter, Loung helps us grieve the horrors we are all touched by and inspires us to reach for a more peaceful and compassionate way of living. Her presence is sheer grace.”

Carla Goldstein, President, Omega Institute & cofounder of Omega Women's Leadership Center

“Loung delivered a powerful, moving and yet very human story. People watched in total rapt attention, many with tears in their eyes. To this day many still talk about the event and the impact she made. Once you have heard Loung speak, you are captivated, drawn in and left feeling good and wanting to do something positive with your life.”

Tom Wright, General Manager Cathay Pacific Airlines; India & Middle East

“Loung connected with students, staff and parents. Her sense of social justice and humanity has touched the minds, hearts and souls of our community. Although she is now gone, her influence will continue to resonate for many people.”

Mark R. Boyer, Assistant Superintendent Singapore American School

“Loung Ung’s presentation inspired me and influenced me to change my way of existing.”

Brittany St. John, Student

“Loung Ung taught me how to view life in a different way. I realize that I am fortunate to be living the life I live.”

Luis Gallego, Student

Response to First They Killed My Father

In this gripping narrative, Loung Ung describes the unfathomable evil that engulfed Cambodia during her childhood, the courage that enabled her to survive, and the determination that has made her an eloquent voice for peace and justice in Cambodia. It is a tour-de-force that strengthened our resolve to prevent and punish crimes against humanity.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, Congressional Leader on Human Rights and a Global Ban on Land Mines

“This book left me gasping for air…  In the end, the horror of the Cambodian genocide is matched only by the author’s indomitable spirit.”

Iris Chang, Author of The Rape of Nanking 

“A riveting memoir… an important, moving work that those who have suffered cannot afford to forget and those who have been spared cannot afford to ignore.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“Ung tells her stories straightforwardly, vividly, and without any strenuous effort to explicate their importance, allowing the stories themselves to create their impact.”

The New York Times

“Loung has written an eloquent and powerful narrative as a young witness to the Khmer Rouge atrocities. This is an important story that will have a dramatic impact on today’s readers and inform generations to come.”

Dith Pran, whose wartime life was portrayed in the award-winning film “The Killing Fields”

“This is a story of the triumph of a child’s indomitable spirit over the tyranny of the Khmer Rouge; over a culture where children are trained to become killing machines. Despite the heartache, I could not put the book down until I reached the end.”

Queen Noor of Jordan, Founder, Women and Development Project

“Despite the tragedy all around her, this scrappy kid struggles for life and beats the odds.  I thought young Ung’s story would make me sad.  But this spunky child warrior carried me with her in her courageous quest for life.  Reading these pages has strengthened me in my own struggle to disarm the powers of violence in this world.”

Sister Helen Prejean, C.S.J., Author of Dead Man Walking

“This is a harrowing, compelling story. Evoking a child’s voice and viewpoint, Ung has written a book filled with vivid and unforgettable details.  I lost a night’s sleep to this book because I literally could not put it down, and even when I finally did, I lost another night’s sleep just from the sheer echoing power of it.

Lucy Grealy, Author of Autobiography of a Face

“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.”


“Skillfully constructed, this account also stands as an eyewitness history of the period, because as a child Ung was so aware of her surrounding, and because as an adult writer she adds details to clarify the family’s moves and separations…. This powerful account is a triumph.”

Publishers Weekly

First They Killed My Father

Film Press:

"Telluride: Angelina Jolie’s 'First They Killed My Father’ Takes Fest by Storm"

~ Hollywood Reporter (09/02/2017)

"Angelina Jolie Gets Standing Ovation for ‘Cambodia’ Film at Telluride"

~ Variety (09/02/2017)

Angelina Jolie's First They Killed My Father hailed her best film, gets standing ovation at Telluride. Cambodian-set adaptation of Loung Ung’s memoir praised by critics.

~ Entertainment Weekly (09/02/2017)

"Toronto film festival: First They Killed My Father review, Angelina Jolie's triumph spotlights casualties of war"

~ The Guardian (09/12/2017)

"Review: In Angelina Jolie’s New Movie, a Child’s-Eye View of War, FIRST THEY KILLED MY FATHER: A DAUGHTER OF CAMBODIA REMEMBERS"

~ New York Times (09/13/2017)

"First They Killed My Father Is a Surprising, Devastating Triumph."

~ The Atlantic (09/15/2017)

Angelina Jolie profile focuses on First They Killed My Father. Includes video, "Anatomy of a scene" from the film.

~ New York Times (09/13/2017)

Angelina Jolie's Vanity Fair Cover Story (09/2017)

"Cambodia Picks Angelina Jolie's 'First They Killed My Father' as Oscar Contender"
~ Variety (09/18/2017)

Book Press: 

“A riveting memoir… an important, moving work that those who have suffered cannot afford to forget and those who have been spared cannot afford to ignore.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“Ung tells her stories straightforwardly, vividly, and without any strenuous effort to explicate their importance, allowing the stories themselves to create their impact.”

The New York Times

“There can be absolutely no question about the innate power of Ung’s story, the passion with which she tells it, or its enduring importance.”

Washington Post Book World

“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.”


Religious Press:

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