Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 7 | Words: 2068
Reading Time: 9 Minutes

Have you ever experienced the death of a father and being taken away by soldiers to become a child soldier? In the book “˜First They Killed My Father’ its author Loung Ung illustrates real life experience of her life as a child. The book chronologically presents accounts of events, which happened to the author when she was a child. Events described encompass a period of author’s childhood starting when she was five years old until she was nine years old. In the past, many crucial events happened in countries where civil wars occurred. In most cases, parents were taken away and children were recruited to become child soldiers. These experiences were traumatic for young children leading to psychological problems in the future. One of the reasons for writing this book is that it was completely necessary. The second reason is that the author wanted to offer people a taste of real life experience of a child in war zone countries. Therefore, this book report about “˜First They Killed My Father’ discusses experiences of the author as well as importance of the book to the world community.

The book is about a family living in Cambodia, where they are struggling to survive in harsh political conditions of the country. Ung narrates that when she was young, she was already getting used to the life of being hungry and tired every day. In addition, people were not supposed to show any sings of weakness. The weak ones were perceived to be an expense to the camp, therefore, they were killed. One day, Ung’s family had to experience taking away of their father, who was supposed to be killed (Ung, 2000). Upon realizing this, their mother forced Ung and her brother to escape to another camp, where they could survive on their own. Due to fear of surviving alone, the two stayed together until they were separated by soldiers in the camp. Ung was taken to become a child soldier, while her brother was taken to become a worker. Later, she was able to escape from Cambodia. She went to America where she was reunited with other survived members of the family (Ung, 2000).

The main aim of the book is to illustrate Cambodian genocide that took place between 1975 and 1979. The book is written about this period, during which more than two million Cambodians died due to torture, starvation, and exhaustive physical labor. This period was referred to as Khamer Rouge period (Chandler, 2011). During this period, there was a communist regime in a country, where Pol Pot and his close allies occupied most of the important positions in power. Communists abolished all laws set by the royal government and introduced their own rules in the government. According to these rules, people did not have any human rights, except one stating that men and women were equal in every way. When the communist party took control of the government, people were forced to evacuate from the cities. During this period prisoners were taken, tortured, and killed if they were suspected in being enemies. Moreover, people were forced to work in the fields killing the weak ones.

With the view of the historical contest, the book is referring to the genocide in Cambodia, which took place around that time. More than two million people were killed by the communist party through torture, forced labor, and starvation. During that period, the communist party was taking power in their hands by making sure that nobody was opposing their government. During that time, families were taken away from their homes in cities to work in the fields. Those who were opposing were taken as prisoners, while those who surrendered were forced to work for long hours without food. In the process, many people were dying due to exhaustive physical labor, while others were dying due to starvation. Finally, communists were torturing and later killing those people who were suspected to oppose the regime.

The main character in the story is Ung who is the author of the book. She is trying to illustrate her experiences as a child in Cambodia during the time of civil war, when many people were killed by the government. As a child during this time in Cambodia, Ung is trying to show readers all difficulties that she was going through during this period (Ung, 2000). It can be seen that Ung was a child full of hope, despite having fears of death. This is shown in the book, where Ung was hoping that one day she would escape from Cambodia to another country, where she would be able to find peace. Additionally, Ung was extremely courageous. During the Khamer Rouge time, those people who were trying to escape faced serious criminal charges. First, they were tortured and then they were killed. This proves that Ung had a lot of courage if she was able to attempt and successfully escape from Cambodia.

In general, when Ung was writing this book, she was trying to inform the world about evils that happened in Cambodia during the Khamer Rouge regime. Many people across the globe do not have an idea about what was happening in Cambodia from 1975 till 1979. People only know that Cambodia was going through a civil war, where the communist party was trying to take control of all resources in the country. Additionally, human rights were not observed during the Pol Pot era. People were forced to move out of their houses in the cities and would later be forced to work hard as peasants in rural areas. Therefore, Ung as an activist of human rights is trying to educate the world about importance of human rights using her own true story. Consequently, Ung was writing this book to inform the world about the horrific period of Khamer Rouge through her life experience when she was a child.

Further, Ung is addressing this book to the government and the people of Cambodia. This was one of the darkest moments in Cambodia when many innocent people were killed because of greed of a selfish regime. Pol Pot and his associates were using their powers to gain more power and wealth for their own selfish purposes. In the process of doing so, they were killing innocent people for the purposes of fulfilling their missions. Based on these facts, the author is trying to educate the contemporary government of Cambodia to stop any inhuman acts in order to avoid going back where they were between 1975 and 1979 (US Department of State, 2011). Additionally, the author is trying to educate people of Cambodia, especially those who were not there during the Khamer Rouge regime. Ung is educating people about the horrors that took place showing them that they should learn from the past. When people of Cambodia read this book, they learn from their country’s history and they will not let their country go back to murdering innocent people.

Finally, the author wrote this book for the purpose of teaching students in a history class. Additionally, she wrote this book for the purpose of explaining to students how human rights of people were violated. In the modern world, there are no extremes of human rights violation. People have their rights and freedoms, so they can do anything they want without use of force. Moreover, the young generation does not have an idea of what it is like to have their human rights violated. They do not have an idea of how it feels like watching a close member of the family dying or being taken away to become a slave. For this reason, the author is trying to educate students in schools about what was happening during the Cambodian genocide. By reading this book, the students become aware of what innocent people in Cambodia went through. Additionally, they get to know the truth about their history relating to what is hidden from them by other history books about the Cambodian genocide.

The book “˜First They Killed My Father’ has certain strengths and weaknesses while trying to explain the themes to readers. The first strength of the book is showing readers different human rights that were violated by the Khamer Rouge regime in Cambodia. First, the book shows how people were forcefully evicted from their own homes and forced to go for work to rural areas without pay. According to universal human rights, people have a right to stay where they want. Additionally, people have a right to own property. Secondly, people are not supposed to be tortured at all times regardless of the motives. The book clearly shows how people were tortured. Torturing of any form violates human rights (US Department of State, 2011). Finally, the book is clearly showing readers how Cambodians were forced to work in the fields angains their own will and without pay. All these practices are against human rights.

Secondly, the book clearly shows readers how the rights of children were violated by Pol Pot and his allies in Cambodia. First, children were deprived of a childhood, when they were supposed to enjoy themselves. Instead of being left to play in the fields, they were made to work like slaves. In this case, the book clearly illustrates this fact, when Ung is forced to abandon the life she was used to before 1975 and to live another life full of hardships during the Cambodian genocide. Furthermore, it is against human rights to use children as child soldiers. The book indicates how Ung was taken by the soldiers to become a child soldiers to fight for Khamer Rouge era (Leitsinger, 2010). Finally, it is against human rights to separate children from their mother. The book indicates that Ung’s father was taken away from the family to be killed. Additionally, Ung’s mother was forced to make her children go leave her so that they could survive. In this case, the book clearly shows different human rights violations that Pol Pot was causing to the innocent people of Cambodia.

Thirdly, the book gives clear detailed accounts of events that were happening in history of Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. Most historical books that were written to describe this period of history do not provide detailed account of events that were happening at that time. They only present facts leaving out the details of what was happening. The book has provided chronological account of events that occurred from the moment the Khamer Rouge regime entered into power to the moment it was defeated by Vietnam, who was saving people from the genocide. In this case, the book can be used to provide accurate historical content for studies in schools.

Finally, the book is strongly engaging readers to feel what the author went through as a child during the Cambodian civil war. When people are reading this book, they become involved in the story and can relate to what Ung was going through. For instance, when Ung’s father is taken by the soldiers so that he could be killed, the readers are feeling sorry for Ung’s family. On the other hand, readers can understand what it feels like when somebody violates their human rights (US Department of State, 2011). In this way, the book makes the readers have an idea of what was happening in the past in Cambodia.

There are two main reasons why this book can be used for purposes of teaching people about genocide in modern times. The first reason is that the book is based on true events that happened during Cambodian genocide. Additionally, the author of the book, Ung, experienced all the events that took place during that time. Therefore, the book is giving the readers a true and honest account of what was happening during the genocide. The second reason for using the book to teach people about genocide is that the book is showing details in history that could have been omitted by other historical books. For these reasons, the book provides an excellent content, which makes it appropriate to be used in studies of genocide.


The book provides an excellent context, showing violations of human rights and children rights in Cambodia by the government of Pol Pot during the Khamer Rouge Regime. Additionally, the book is a classic history of Cambodian genocide because it presents details of what was happening during this horrible four-year period. For this reason, the book can be used by teachers and professors to teach history of genocide in contemporary classrooms.

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