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Summary

One of seven children of a high-ranking government official, Loung Ung lived a privileged life in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh until the age of five. Then, in April 1975, Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army stormed into the city, forcing Ung's family to flee and, eventually, to disperse. Loung was trained as a child soldier in a work camp for orphans, her siblings were sent to labor camps, and those who survived the horrors would not be reunited until the Khmer Rouge was destroyed. Harrowing yet hopeful, Loung's powerful story is an unforgettable account of a family shaken and shattered, yet miraculously sustained by courage and love in the face of unspeakable brutality.

©2000 Loung Ung (P)2011 Tantor

Critic reviews

"Ung's memoir should serve as a reminder that some history is best not left just to historians but to those left standing when the terror ends." ( Booklist)

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What listeners say about First They Killed My Father

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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voiceover is not suited

I am struggling to listen to this book because of the American 'Disney princess' style reader. It does not suit the tone of this book at all. Very dissapointing.

2 people found this helpful

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Mind bogling.

Hard to listen to in places. A diary of a most shameful period in human history. Important that it is known and learned from.

1 person found this helpful

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must read

excellent book and narrator. Story is absolutely heartbreaking, but something everyone should read if they think communism is a good idea

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American

The language, while it is a story from a Cambodian family is completely American.
The units used are all imperial which really annoys me.
Only Americans use Fahrenheit, inches & yards and it really bugs me, Cambodians don't use this ridiculous system.

Apart from the Yank stuff, it's well worth listening to ...

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Excellent narration. Truly excellent.

Really loved it.
Excited to get in the car.
Heart wrenching true story.
Profile: a 29 year old gym bro.

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  • 19-02-21

Traumatic, incredible.

I’ve worked my way through a few key books about communist regimes and revolution. Whilst each has their own horrors and truly awful stories, this one plucks at the heartstrings in the voice of an innocent child who doesn’t understand why her life and home are being torn apart.

I highly recommend this to anyone who has no knowledge of the Khmer Rouge and Cambodia. This isn’t a history book, it’s a first hand account of the very real horrors and abuses that people suffered. It’s traumatic but poignant.

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Thank you for sharing your sad life story.

I was probably about the same age as Loung when obvious started but I never knew anything about it. this is such a heartbreaking story from an amazing person.

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powerful. emotive. moving

moving. wow. cant say any more than that. from start to finish. the film does not do this book Justice. I applaude you Loung Ung.

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First they killed my father - very enlightening book

First they killed my father - very enlightening book
I knew little about Cambodia & the terrible things that happened to the people living there, I was to young, but this book has educated me in their struggle.
Great narration

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A difficult listen.

Reading or listening to stories of the Cambodian rule under Pol Pot is always painful. To see how a country can fall into such terrible times is amazing. The last century bears witness to mans own depravity. Diabolical Ideologies arose straight from the bowls of Hell. I would have preferred to read this book than listen to it. It was well narrated though.

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  • Michael
  • 09-10-12

excellent and very moving true story

What did you love best about First They Killed My Father?

the whole story -a recall of a terrible time

What other book might you compare First They Killed My Father to and why?

nothing compares

Which scene was your favorite?

the most tragic was when they took her father away, very very moving!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

most definetly!

Any additional comments?

it made me appreciate the wonderful live I have and how easily this could be taken away1

7 people found this helpful

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  • Daryl
  • 31-07-12

An eye-opening look into an unknown world

Would you listen to First They Killed My Father again? Why?

Yes. it was a difficult read, so I had to pick it up and put it down, but it was captivating and tragic.

Have you listened to any of Tavia Gilbert’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I don't believe I have... but I will have to check out more of her material; she did an amazing job on this one.

6 people found this helpful

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  • D. Din
  • 03-10-17

A story similar to my parent's individual stories

A story that echoes many hundreds I've heard from elders. i though it was well written. though the pronunciations of many thing were different from my native tongue, it did not throw me off. the reminders were so vivid in my mothers eye's she told me she couldn't finish. it mirrored many things my parents told me when i would complain, and i would shut up because nothing i was going through was like that, it's a little different when you meet the characters in a story and visually see the effects of the aftermath. My father escaped with a khmer rouge child soldier whom i call uncle till this day. I wish I had documented these campfire stories because that generation is fading fast and only child survivors like the author, my parents and their contemporaries still remain. This book struck a chord with me and made me appreciate the ones who came before me.

5 people found this helpful

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  • Gillian
  • 27-01-15

Brutal, Heartbreaking

The trials held against some of the last surviving perpetrators of the Cambodian genocide this past October really had me interested in looking into some of books out there on the subject. After listening to the deplorable "Soul of a Tiger," "First They Killer My Father" was so hard hitting as to be almost unbearable. It's extraordinary the way Loung Ung's character develops from a naive, whiny child (whiny because she hasn't a clue as to how dangerous the situation is) to a desperate individual who would do anything to survive, even if it means stealing food, killing sparrows, whatever. This is starvation and desperation at its most devastating.
This is not a light listen, but it's a good one. Just be prepared for some heartbreak, some hopelessness. But some love there too.
That said, you'll never think of earthworms the same way again...

10 people found this helpful

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  • rachel
  • 18-02-16

simply beautiful

very touching book. gave a very good overview of the Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia. I would absolutely recommend the read or the listen of this order book....

4 people found this helpful

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  • Christa
  • 07-02-16

Great and harrowing story of survival

I would definitely recommend this book to a friend. The only thing that I wish there had been was more historical and factual information about the reign of pol pot. As far as a first person memoir in an event like this, this book was well told and easy to listen to. I will have my kids listen to this when they are old enough. Because of details of rape, I would say 13+

4 people found this helpful

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  • Kat V
  • 06-06-18

Gripping Story with Infantile Voice

We read this book for our Book Group. Everyone else was totally engrossed in the narrative - except me. I am the only
member who uses audio books. This is one book that should NOT be read out loud. Hearing a grown woman's voice
trying to sound like a five-year old was a deal breaker. Even the most frightening or heartbreaking events sounded
contrived and just ------- wrong. GO to the Public Library for this one.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ashley
  • 17-02-15

Moving story of survival

Could not stop listening to this chilling true story of strength and survival. Great novel!

2 people found this helpful

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  • diney
  • 09-09-17

an amazing story, but rather poorly written

interesting to learn about this period through a child's eyes. The writing is repetitive and unsophisticated, but still paints a compelling picture.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mark
  • 03-01-12

Amazing, heartbreaking - A must read!

The atrocities surrounding events in this book sound like they should be deep in our past; however they were merely 30 years ago. This is an amazing and heartbreaking story told from the inside through the eyes of an intelligent young girl. I have recommended this book to many family and friends. It really does show all sides of human nature and opens your eyes to what people are capable of. A must read!

3 people found this helpful