Until the age of five, Loung Ung lived in Phnom Penh with her parents, six siblings and loved fried crickets, chicken fights, and open-air markets. When Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge army stormed into her city in April 1975, Ung’s family was forced to flee their home and hide their previous life of privilege. Eventually, they dispersed in order to survive. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans while her other siblings were sent to labor camps. Only after the Vietnamese destroyed the Khmer Rouge were Loung and her surviving siblings slowly reunited. 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.
Published in 2000 by HarperCollins, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers was selected by the Asian/Pacific American Librarians’ Association for “Excellence in Adult Non-fiction Literature” and quickly became a bestseller. Ms. Ung's book has been published in eleven languages and chosen widely for school and community reads. It 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.
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.”
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