First They Killed my Father by Loung Ung

Rate: 3.5/5

Medium: Audiobook

Overview (No Spoilers): Recently I’ve been afflicted with a strong case of wanderlust and have been itching to plan my next trip. Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand are on my short list of places I want to adventure to next.  As with any of my previous trips, I usually start to look for books regarding the areas I’m intrigued about to absorb some of their history before my visit. In this case, my initial search locating library books about Cambodia, yielded First They Killed my Father showing up as available to borrow.  Interestingly, Angelina Jolie had directed a Netflix movie based on this book that I’d remembered hearing positive reviews about last year. I’d anticipated this book to be heart wrenching as foreshadowed by the title, however the emotional turmoil experienced by Ung and her family, along with thousands of other Cambodians was difficult to read as they suffer unfathomable hardships and death at the hands of the Pol Pot regime. This read was told from the perspective of Ung as a young child, who was five when they Khmer Rouge army first took over her home city of Phnom Penh, forever changing her life.  Ugh kept the narrative true to her experiences, which resulted in her being kept in the dark regarding current events in several instances by the adults due to her young age.  While this perspective provided a high level of suspense as to what lay in the future for Ung and her family, it neglected to include many facts and provide a concrete timelines of what was actually happening in Cambodia during this time.  Some facts were sprinkled throughout but not at the level I found myself wishing for and I will likely be supplementing with additional reading on this painful subject.  Overall, First they Killed my Father was heartbreaking, truly capturing the hopelessness of the situation that so many Cambodians found themselves in during this time period.


  1. I enjoyed reading this book! Like you, I read it because I was interested in learning more about Cambodia. I agree that it was very difficult to read at points, especially knowing young children were going through all these horrors. This book definitely focuses mostly on Ung’s experience, and lacks a lot of historical detail. However, since it is an autobiography, I didn’t mind this too much. I can’t wait to see your posts if you do end up going to visit Cambodia in the future. Another book I remember enjoying about Cambodia is Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner. It’s a beautiful written book, even if the plot is all over the place.

    Liked by 1 person

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