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1-Page Summary of First They Killed My Father
Loung Ung wrote a book called First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers. She was born in Cambodia and survived the genocide that took place under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. The author, as an adult looking back at her childhood years, shares what she experienced during this time period. Some experts criticized it for not being historically accurate but other critics lauded Ung for capturing the emotional truth of her experiences. Angelina Jolie directed a Golden Globe-nominated film adaptation of First They Killed My Father in 2017.
Loung Ung was born in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. When she was five years old, her family fled to the countryside after the Khmer Rouge took over. They spent two months walking to a village where they stayed for 18 months before settling in another camp called Ro Leap. During that time, many of her relatives died from starvation and disease as the government slowly killed people who lived there.
The first person to die in the book is Loung’s older sister Keav. She dies of food poisoning and dysentery at a camp for teenage girls, six months before her death. Her father was taken away from their family by Khmer Rouge soldiers when they asked him for help with their truck. He never returned home after that day.
Loung eventually goes to another labor camp, where she is reunited with her family. Loung dreams that something happened to her mother and Geak. She quickly returns home, only to learn that they were killed by the Khmer Rouge. This news was too much for Loung; she fainted three times in a row before returning home. When she returned, the leader of the camp punished her for leaving without permission and took away all of her privileges as punishment. Afterward, more attacks came from the Khmer Rouge against their own people; this made them fearful of Vietnamese citizens who lived nearby at the time (the girls are taught to fear Vietnamese). They would attack brutally until everyone left their homes and went into hiding or fled from Cambodia altogether—Loung’s family did just that when they moved into an infirmary together after being separated for so long.
The story continues with the family reuniting and escaping to a safer place. They find shelter in refugee camps, where they live in extreme poverty for many years until a kind American family sponsors them. Loung and her brother Meng end up living successfully in America, but after many years of being away from Cambodia, Loung returns to reconnect with the remaining members of her family.
Chapter 1: “Phnom Penh”
Before the Khmer Rouge invade Phnom Penh, Loung Ung lives comfortably with her family. Her father has a job and they have enough food to eat. They live in a house and own two vehicles. Although they do not have a refrigerator, they are able to get fresh food each day at the market by buying it from vendors there. Loung is attending school where she learns languages and plays with friends at the market while wearing colorful clothing that her mother makes for her. She loves eating sweet cakes made by her mother as well as cuddling with her father when he comes home from work every night after dinner time because it reassures him that everything is fine between them
Chapter 2: “The Ung Family”
Loung writes about her family and how they all get along. She provides details about their history, including some of the challenges they faced early on in life. She also mentions her father’s work history as a government employee and the dangers he faces because of his profession.