Kirkus Reviews QR Code


A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers

by Loung Ung

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-06-019332-8
Publisher: HarperCollins

A rare, chilling eyewitness account of the bloody aftermath of the Khmer Rouge’s merciless victory over the Cambodian government in April 1975, as seen through the eyes of a precocious child. The author—national spokesperson for the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation’s“Campaign for a Landmine Free World— program, whose activities won her the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize—was, in 1970, the five-year-old daughter of a Cambodian government official when her loving, close-knit, middle-class family of seven children first learned of the Khmer Rouge’s approach to their hometown of Phnom Penh. The family fled, constantly moving, trying to hide their identity as educated urban people who would be regarded by their agrarian enemies as “exploiters.— Eventually they were captured, robbed, beaten, half- starved, and sent to forced-labor camps. In time, Loung’s father and mother were killed, her older sister and baby sister died of malnutrition and disease, and her older brothers and she were recruited to serve the Khmer Rouge. The genocidal fury endured by Loung’s family and other families caused a widespread and lasting hatred of the Khmer Rouge. Her surviving relatives split up to avoid being executed together, and through their courage and resourcefulness managed to stay alive despite the bloodbath. In time, Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia and Pol Pot’s forces were destroyed, but not before millions of Cambodians perished. Ung, her older brother, and his family were rescued by a humanitarian group and came to the US to build a new life; ultimately, the surviving family members would meet again. A harrowing true story of the nightmare world that was Cambodia in those terrible times of mass murder and slow death through overwork, starvation, and disease. Will affect even readers who cannot find Ung’s homeland on a map. (8 pages b&w photos)