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Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge

by Chanrithy Him

Pub Date: April 17th, 2000
ISBN: 0-393-04863-2
Publisher: Norton

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)