First They Killed My Father

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First They Killed My Father
US edition paperback cover
Author Loung Ung
Cover artist Loung Ung, Mary Schuck
Country United States
Language English
Genre memoir
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date
Media type Print (paperback)
Pages 238 p.
ISBN 0-06-093138-8
OCLC 45831904

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers is a 2000 non-fiction book written by Loung Ung, a Cambodian author and survivor of the Pol Pot regime. It is a personal account of her experiences during the Khmer Rouge years.


From a childhood survivor of Cambodia's brutal Pol Pot regime comes an unforgettable narrative of war crimes and desperate actions, the unnerving strength of a small girl and her family, and their triumph of spirit. Until the age of five, Loung Ung lived in Phnom Penh, one of seven children of a high-ranking government official. She was a precocious child who loved the open city markets, fried crickets, chicken fights, and sassing her parents. While her beautiful mother worried that Loung was a troublemaker—that she stomped around like a thirsty cow—her beloved father knew Loung was a clever girl. When Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into Phnom Penh in April 1975, Ung's family fled their home and moved from village to village to hide their identity, their education, their former life of privilege. Eventually, the family dispersed in order to survive. Because Loung was resilient and determined, she was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, while other siblings were sent to labor camps. As the Vietnamese penetrated Cambodia, destroying the Khmer Rouge, Loung and her surviving siblings were slowly reunited. Bolstered by the shocking bravery of one brother, the vision of the others—and sustained be her sister's gentle kindness amid brutality—Loung forged on to create for herself a courageous new life.[1]

Gender Roles[edit]

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers showcases a young girl's experiences during the Khmer Rouge. Not only does this non-fiction book show readers what it was like to live during the Khmer Rouge rule in Cambodia but it gives readers insight into what genders roles were in place during this period. Some of the most critical questions that readers should ask themselves while reading this autobiography are how did the book depict genders roles, if these roles changed during the war, what challenges did the characters (both male and female) face during the war, and how female beauty was depicted. There are many quotes from this book that show readers how important it was for Lounge to be "lady like": “Today, Ma has already warned me twice not to climb and stand on the chair. I settle for simply swinging my legs back and forth beneath the table.” (2) “Don’t you ever sit still? You are five years old. You are the most troublesome child. Why can’t you be like your sisters? How will you ever grow up to be a proper young lady?” Ma sighs.[2] There are is also a good example of how it was important for women to be beautiful in a "Western" way: Among her women friends, Ma is admired for her height, slender build, and porcelain white skin. I often overhear them talking about her beautiful face when they think she cannot hear. Because I’m a child, they feel free to say whatever they want in front of me, believing I cannot understand. So while they’re ignoring me, they comment on her perfectly arched eyebrows; almond-shaped eyes; tall, straight Western nose; and oval face. At 5’6”, Ma is an amazon among Cambodian women.[3]


  1. ^ LitLovers Retrieved 9 April 2015.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Ung, Loung (2000). HarperCollins. p. 2.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Ung, Loung (2000). HarperCollins. p. 2.  Missing or empty |title= (help)

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