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Table of Contents Page 3 - Characters Page 6 - Culture Page 7 - Historical Snapshot Page 8 - Map and Timeline Page 9 - Introduction to Themes Page 10 - Summary Page 11 - Discussion of Themes Page 15 - Objectives Page 16 - Discussion Page 17 - Author Background Page 18 - Works Cited


Characters Loung 5 years old at the start of the story and lives in Cambodia Very talkative and curious about almost everything which is very advanced for someone her age Appreciates her family deep down, especially her father who she adores for his knowledge and leadership Transforms from a small scared child into a strong courageous young adult who fights for survival


Was very scared during the invasion and always showed her emotions and fears though she tried her best to be strong for her family

Keav Was always a light to the family despite the struggles and hardships they faced, and her death shook the entire family


Loung’s father and the provider for the family Supports the family through his work and also is the emotional backbone for the family Uses his previous life experiences to help the family survive in their new conditions


Extremely fast, athletic, and was willing to take up the responsibility of taking care of the family after Pa died in ways such as stealing extra food despite the risks

Meng Wasn't seen as physically strong but gained many leadership qualities and strengths throughout the years of the genocide in order to keep the rest of his family alive

Ma Loung’s mother and is the stabling force of the family Stays home to take care of the household and watch over the children (particularly the baby) Works very hard so that her children can survive and make tough decisions for the good of her family


Was seen as physically strong and mean but carried his strength and anger with him when trying to support the family in ways such as giving up food rations and fighting to survive

Geak Was just a baby when the Khmer Rouge invaded and never was able to grow and develop due to the lack of food and nutrition


Questions 1. Are there any similarities between Meng and Pa? If so, what are they? 2. Based on what you know about the characters, who do you think was the biggest help to the family? 3. Compare and contrast Loung to a young, American girl that you know of from a movie or book. Journal Each character from First They Killed My Father has his or her own characteristics that set him or her apart from the others. There are also characteristics that set a Cambodian family apart from an American family besides looks. Compare and contrast Loung Ung's family to your own.

Loung Ung's Family Tree

Loung Khouy

Meng Chou Ma and Pa


Kim Keav


Culture of Cambodia Cambodian culture is also commonly known as Khmer culture. As far as religion, 90% of Cambodians are Buddhist. Cambodia is home to the Angkor Wat temple, one of the largest religious Buddhist temples in the world. During Khmer Rouge, food was incredibly scarce and many people starved. However, after their rulings, food again became an important part of Khmer culture. No matter what the time period in Cambodia, the most popular staple food is rice. For many years, rice has been a part of everyone’s meal. A popular meal in Cambodia is ka tieu. Ka tieu is a soup that is made with rice and pork.The Cambodian At the time of this book, Cambodia celebrated holidays such as Bonn Chaul Chham or Bonn Om Touk. Bonn Chaul Chham is Khmer New Year, and Bonn Om Touk is the water and moon festival celebrating the flow of a popular Cambodian reservoir, the Tonle Sap. After Pol Pot was overthrown on January 7th 1979, it became a national holiday that is still celebrated for victory over such a brutal man. Another thing that has had major importance in Khmer culture is music. Music has been a part of everyone's daily life, whether it was being sung by children, workers, or played at the celebrations throughout the year. Dancing and theater still plays a prominent role in Khmer culture, with many schools and cultural places to help support the traditions of theater and dance after these came to an end in the 1970s. Culture has remained an important part of Cambodia, with so many different aspects that bring the people of Cambodia closer together.

Historical Snapshot This book takes place during the time that Cambodia was under the communist regimes instituted by Pol Pot. These communist rulings, called the Khmer Rouge, took place from 1975 to 1979 and killed over 1.5 to 3 million people. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge believed that they could transform Cambodia into a perfect Communist society, often disagreeing with many of the already implemented rules and beliefs. This story specifically takes place around the time that Pol Pot took over the capital, Phnom Penh, in 1975. When Khmer Rouge took over in Phnom Penh, the city was evacuated and everyone was sent to intensive labor camps. In those camps, everyone was challenged to abuse, starvation, disease, and exhaustion. Oftentimes, survival was based on performance, so the older, younger, and weaker one was the smaller the chance of survival. Strict rules were put into place, and the Khmer Rouge even said, “To spare you is no benefit, to destroy you is no loss..� Because Khmer Rouge felt so little about the people of Cambodia, many innocent people were killed for the most minute reasons, such as speaking French or wearing glasses. Many educated citizens such as government officials or monks were often targeted, so to stay alive they often lied about who they were. In addition, because family relationships were prohibited, Khmer Rouge was able to manipulate many of the little children into becoming practicing communists and child soldiers. These child soldiers were required to spy on their own families and parents and report back to the government. The Khmer Rouge completely shaped the people and even the children of Cambodia into people filled with fear and anger.

<Image of Pol Pot Image of Khmer Rouge entering Cambodia>

Map of Cambodia during Khmer Rouge regime

Timeline of Khmer Rouge regime

Family Perseverance Transformation Sacrifice


Summary Loung Ung and her family live in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and they are wealthier than many other Cambodians. One day a group of soldiers called the Khmer Rouge comes into their city and forces everyone out of their homes. They walk for many months, stopping at camps for short stays, but are forced to continue walking in order to survive. There is little-to-no food to eat, the working conditions are unbearable, and the soldiers show no mercy. Her family stays at one particular camp for a long time, but Keav dies and Pa is killed, which forces her siblings to be separated and sent to orphan camps. Eventually, Ma and Geak are also killed. Kim, Chou, and Loung fight to survive after the Youns try to defeat the Angkar and destroy the orphan camps in the process. They live with foster families and are treated poorly by them, but they must endure their suffering. One day, Meng and Khouy, who were separated from them shortly after the war started, come to their rescue. Meng plans to go to America and take Loung with him since she is the youngest and could still make something out of her life. They escape Cambodia but face many obstacles throughout the process. Finally, they make it to America but have to leave their siblings behind since they cannot afford it.

Theme of Family In this book, family was a prominent theme, because Loung Ungâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s family is the only reason she survived. Supporting the family was the biggest motivation to fight and survive throughout the war. In order to save each other, many difficult decisions were made and even though there were a lot of disputes between family members, the most important thing was for them to all come out alive. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Living life to the fullest involves living it with your family.â&#x20AC;?

Think About This: Compare your own family to the Loung Ung's family. Imagine being put in their situation.

Theme of Perseverance Perseverance was a prominent theme as well, because although there were many obstacles and challenges that arose, Loung Ung and her family did not give up. In some instances, one person would feel like giving up, but no matter what, there was something that made him go on. Every character was determined to fight hard for their lives and the lives of their loved ones throughout the story. Think About This: Based on the events that occurred in the story, do you think the outcome would have been different if one of the family members would have given up? How?

Theme of Tranformation At the beginning, Loung and her family lived nice lives of luxury and convenience. They always good meals to eat, access to clean water, had the opportunity to wash themselves, and so much more because their family was decently well off. They had above average commodities than the regular Cambodian family, and that set them apart from the rest. However, once the Khmer Rouge invaded, they lost everything and had to completely change their lifestyles. They no longer had access to the things they used to, and they lived with the constant fear that at any moment they could be killed. This dramatic change in their physical lifestyles also lead to great internal transformations of some of the characters. An example could be Loungâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s brother Kim. He used to just stay in the shadows of family responsibility because he had his father and older brothers who took up the most important jobs. However, after his brothers were sent away and Pa died, Kim immediately took up the role as head of the family and made many changes and sacrifices to continue on what Pa did for the families survival. He organized food rations, distributed the daily jobs, and even stole extra food, which caused him to get severely beaten, in order to keep the others from starving. Loung also went through an amazing transformation. She used to be a very curious, daring, and adventurous child in Phnom Penh who didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t understand intense concepts such as political corruption. By the end of the story, all of the tragedies that she and her family endured taught her how to fight back against oppression in order to survive. She witnessed things that no one her age should have had to go through, and this made her a completely different person. She learned to hate and to do what she had to in order to make it through.

Theme of Sacrifice Sacrifice is also a reoccuring theme in First They Killed My Father. Every time a problem arose, there was someone that was willing to solve the problem by sacrificing for his family. These sacrifices sometimes led to death, but other times they led to joy. There was nothing that a family member wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t willing to do for his family no matter how dangerous or arduous it was. For example, Pa always let his children and wife eat whatever amount of food they had and saved the smallest portion for himself. Additionally, Kim, only ten years old at the time, took the risk of stealing corn from the Khmer Rougeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fields in order to keep his family from dying of starvation. He risked his life, because if he was caught, he would be killed or beaten harshly.

Objectives To understand that life requires sacrifice and that nothing should ever be taken for granted. To understand the important role that love and family play during hardships, specifically war. To understand that change is always happening, and everyone must learn to adapt to what happens


Quote Log “In Phnom Penh, it seems the more money you have, the more stairs you climb” (8). “This is what the war has done to me. Now I want to destroy because of it. There is such hate and rage inside me now. The Angkar has taught me to hate so deeply that I now know I have the power to destroy and kill” (105). “Keav tells me the soldiers claim to love Cambodia and its people very much. I wonder then why they are this mean if they love us so much” (22). “I think how the world is somehow beautiful even when I feel no joy at being alive with it.”

Apply this quote to modern-day society. This was said by Loung Ung, only 10-years old. Think of a situation where you where transformed into a person you couldn't recognize. How did you feel? Loung's family kept her in the dark about situations often. Put yourself in her shoes. How would you feel? Do you look at the bright side of situations even when something bad happens?

“No one knows how precious you are. You are a Can you recall a time that diamond in the rough and with a little polishing, someone important in your you will shine,” Pa whispers softly. (183) life said something to you “As a child, I didn’t have a voice and had to suffer in silence.” (interview with Loung Ung)

that really stuck with you during a tough time in your life? Do you think that by writing First They Killed My Father, Loung Ung found the voice she lost as a child. How?

Author Background Loung Ung was born on April 17, 1970, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Her parents were Ay Choung and Seng Im Ung, and she had 6 other siblings. In April 1975, her entire life was changed by the Khmer Rouge invasion and Cambodian genocide. She lost both her parents, two sisters, and over 20 other members of her extended family. Despite all the hardships, she was able to persevere and survive, and after she reunited with her family, she and her older brother moved to America to try and build a new life. Once she arrived, Loung worked hard to learn English, get an education, and become a voice for the voiceless. Using her degree in Political Science, she became a spokeswoman for the Campaign for a Landmine-Free World and traveled all across the world telling her story and spreading the word to stop violence. She published First They Killed My Father in 2001 as a way to continue to tell her story and spread her message to millions. Loung has also written two other books that detail her life after the Cambodian genocide and the effects it has left on her. In 2015, she co-wrote the screenplay and was an executive producer for the movie First They Killed My Father with her longtime friend Angelina Jolie. Today, she lives happily with her husband Mark in Ohio, and along with being a writer and Cambodian activist, she also owns multiple restaurants with her husband.

WORKS CITED FOR PICTURES WORKS CITED Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 18 Dec. 2017, “Cambodian Genocide.” World Without Genocide , Mitchell Hamline School of Law , Mar. 2017, Chandler, David P., and Leonard C. Overton. “Cambodia.” Encyclopædia “Loung Ung.” Adrienne Kennedy, 2012, “Loung Ung .” Loung Ung, 10 Jan. 2012, Pran, Dith. “Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields .” The New York Times, “The Cambodian Genocide.” United to End Genocide, The New York Times, 1997,

First They Killed My Father  
First They Killed My Father