Monday, January 23, 2006

First They Killed My Father

This is an excellent book about a five year-old girl's recollections of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. Loung Ung, the author and woman who was the girl, describes her family's flight from Phnom Penh to the countryside where they hid their identities for years. Were the Kmehr Rouge to discover of her father's position in the military as a police captain for the incumbent government it would have resulted in his and his family's death or imprisonment. As they move from village to village and their family is divided they cling more and more tightly to each other. Her world constricts to the immediacy of mother, father, brothers, and sisters. You feel her pain and anguish as she works through her memories of the hardships and horrors of her early childhood years. The narration is factual and almost unemotional at times as she describes the brutality she and her loved ones endured. Her memories are, I believe, coloured by the vision of a five year-old who does not have the range of emotions to accurately describe what she is feeling. And yet, even through the tough child she became in order to survive an intolerable situation, we see her innocence and the injustice of what no young child should ever experience. All of us need to read of these events, understand how and why they came about, and make sure they do not repeat in our lifetimes - either in our country or in another. It is still hard for me to believe it all happened between the years when I was 7 and 11 years old. I had no idea what was going on half way around the world at the time. I wish I had known.

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