A simply told, yet inspirational memoir about the reign of the Khmer Rouge that helps to shed light on the plight of the...

WHEN BROKEN GLASS FLOATS

GROWING UP UNDER THE KHMER ROUGE

A worthy and compelling debut by Him, a survivor of the brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge.

In 1975 the Khmer Rouge gained power in Cambodia, leaving a wake of destruction and terror in their path. In this graphic memoir, told from a child's perspective, Him vividly recounts her memories of the war, which began when she was a child of four. Separated and forced into labor camps, death and illness became constant companions to the Him family—of the 12 of them, only 5 survived. Yet, throughout her struggles and losses, Him's enduring hope, strength, and family loyalty gave her the courage to carry on. Sponsored by an uncle in Oregon, Him and her siblings were finally able to escape Cambodia in 1981 after years of torture and neglect. They have attempted to build new lives but even to this day they are continuously haunted by their tragic memories. “I have been reincarnated with a new body, but an old soul. It lives symbiotically inside of me,” Him says in her introduction. Him is just one of the thousands of Cambodian refugees who feel this way. Since 1989, the author has been involved as a researcher on the Khmer Adolescent Project, a federally-funded study of post-traumatic stress disorder among young Cambodian refugees. It was their stories (as well as her own) echoing in Him’s mind that brought her to write this story. Her memoir seems to be both an attempt to face her own circumstances as well as to open the past and avenge the victims of the Khmer Rouge.

A simply told, yet inspirational memoir about the reign of the Khmer Rouge that helps to shed light on the plight of the Cambodian people. (photos)

Pub Date: April 17, 2000

ISBN: 0-393-04863-2

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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