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Book 55 Completed

September 4, 2010

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung could have felt like more of the same. Along the general lines of A Long Way Gone and From the Land of Green Ghosts, this is a memoir that looks at living in a war-torn country. However, I think if I really had to choose…I’d say that I think this book is better written than the other two.

What I appreciated is that the entire book is told through the eyes of Ung as a child — which keeps the story and the emotions very simple — void of a lot of political tangents. I liked that. A lot. A Long Way Gone does a good job of staying in the moment too. But Ung’s book is just more beautiful. And because it never deviates from her childhood perspective, I felt so drawn to this little girl. I wanted to pick her up and hold her. (Kudos to Ung for making me forget that she’s actually a grown woman now living in DC.)

This book looks at the genocide in Cambodia with freshness — it makes the sadness that happened a long time ago so tangible. I don’t remember really learning a lot about this until I was studying East Asia in college. Even then I got a cursory introduction in a one-day lecture and then we were on to different things. But this book doesn’t delve into the history of Pol Pot or any of that. It stays real. It stays clear and un-muddied. (You’re just rooting for this girl and her family, nothing else.)

And it stays devastating. Just rip-your-heart-out sad. It’s getting really hard to read these tales with such frequency. That won’t stop me, of course. I mean…we’re headed to Vietnam next! Anyway, there isn’t much I can say about this. It’s exactly what you would expect, but it did end up being better than some of the other books written in the same vein. First They Killed My Father was worth picking and I’m totally putting it back on my classroom bookshelf in hopes that students will be interested in reading it too.

Speaking of school…this is my last weekend before school starts. My classroom is super organized, my lessons and powerpoints are made for the week. I’m feeling relatively ready for Tuesday. I still don’t know how I’m going to find time to read…but I’ll make it work. Even if I have to set aside a few of the 400+ page books I was eyeing for later.

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