April 1975

Loung Ung's privileged life as the daughter of a government official is shattered when the Khmer Rouge army invades the Cambodian capital in 1975. In this memoir, Loung recounts her training as a child solider and her family's suffering during the Cambodian genocide.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. sweltering
    excessively hot and humid; marked by sweating and faintness
    Phnom Penh city wakes early to take advantage of the cool morning breeze before the sun breaks through the haze and invades the country with sweltering heat.
  2. aroma
    a distinctive odor that is pleasant
    Waiters and waitresses in black-and-white uniforms swing open shop doors as the aroma of noodle soup greets waiting customers.
  3. ginger
    a pungent rhizome used fresh as a seasoning
    The clang and clatter of spoons against the bottom of bowls, the slurping of hot tea and soup, the smell of garlic, cilantro, ginger, and beef broth in the air make my stomach rumble with hunger.
  4. translucent
    allowing light to pass through diffusely
    "Phnom Penh special noodles with chicken for you and a glass of hot water,” says the waitress as she puts the steaming bowl of translucent potato noodles swimming in clear broth before Ma.
  5. crepe
    small very thin pancake
    There are food carts on every corner, selling everything from ripe mangoes to sugarcane, from Western cakes to French crepes.
  6. savor
    taste appreciatively
    Cambodians eat constantly, and everything is there to be savored if you have money in your pocket, as I do this morning.
  7. amenities
    things that make you comfortable and at ease
    We are very modern—our bathroom is equipped with amenities such as a flushing toilet, an iron bathtub, and running water.
  8. impoverished
    poor enough to need help from others
    The truly impoverished live in makeshift tents in areas where I have never been allowed to wander.
  9. vendor
    someone who exchanges goods or services for money
    Under the bright green and blue plastic tents vendors sell everything from fabrics with stripes, paisley, and flowers to books in Chinese, Khmer, English, and French.
  10. delicacy
    something considered choice to eat
    Cracked green coconuts, tiny bananas, orange mangoes, and pink dragon fruit are on sale as are delicacies such as silver squid—their beady eyes watching their neighbors—and teams of brown tiger shrimp crawling in white plastic buckets.
  11. juxtaposed
    placed side by side often for comparison
    The city owes its ultramodern look to the French colonial buildings that are juxtaposed with the dingy, soot-covered ground-level houses.
  12. oblivious
    lacking conscious awareness of
    At five, I am oblivious to the events of war, yet I know Pa to be brilliant, and therefore he must be right.
  13. assorted
    of many kinds purposefully arranged but lacking uniformity
    In the bathroom, Kim throws soap, shampoo, towels, and other assorted items into a pillowcase.
  14. monsoon
    a seasonal wind in southern Asia
    The bedroom looks as if a monsoon has passed through it: clothes, barrettes, shoes, socks, belts, and scarves are strewn everywhere—on the bed that Chou and I share as well as on Keav’s bed.
  15. brisk
    quick and energetic
    They walk with short, brisk steps, yelling for their kids to stay together, to hold each other’s hands, to not get left behind.
  16. surrender
    relinquish possession or control over
    They holler for the people to close their shops, to gather all guns and weapons, to surrender the weapons to them.
  17. frenzy
    state of violent mental agitation
    After each round of rifle fire, people push and shove one another in a panicked frenzy trying to evacuate the city.
  18. queasy
    causing or fraught with or showing anxiety
    A queasy feeling grips me as I watch the villages pass by.
  19. destination
    the place designated as the end, as of a race or journey
    I can still make out thousands of people milling around or walking to unknown destinations.
  20. abandoned
    forsaken by owner or inhabitants
    My family scrambles to set up our encampment in the field near an abandoned hut.
  21. submission
    the act of surrendering power to another
    With shoulders bent to show submission, Pa takes the watches off of Meng and Khouy's wrists.
  22. scorch
    become singed under intense heat or dry conditions
    Some of the people walk barefoot in the scorching heat, carrying their life’s belongings on their backs or heads.
  23. depose
    force to leave an office
    Anyone who has worked for the deposed government, ex-soldiers or politicians, step up to the table to register for work.
  24. rouge
    makeup consisting of powder applied to the cheeks
    We look so pretty with red ribbons in our ponytails, red rouge on our cheeks, and red lipstick on our lips.
  25. register
    have one's name listed as a candidate for several parties
    “Pa,” Meng says in a frightened voice, “a man told me the noise last night was the Khmer Rouge soldiers opening fire on all the people who registered for work. They killed every one of them.”
  26. putrid
    in an advanced state of decomposition and having a foul odor
    It is not the smell of rotten grass or my own body odor but a smell so putrid that my stomach coils.
  27. forage
    collect or look around for, as food
    Our food supply is reduced to only a few pounds of rice so Meng, Khouy, and Kim have to forage for other food to supplement the rice.
  28. cadre
    a small unit serving as part of a larger political movement
    Uncle Leang and Uncle Heang say that since the Khmer Rouge have won the war, the soldiers removed the old village chief and replaced him with a Khmer Rouge cadre.
  29. abolish
    do away with
    Pa says the Angkar has abolished markets, schools, and universities, and has banned money, watches, clocks, eight-track players, and televisions.
  30. monotony
    the quality of wearisome constancy and lack of variety
    Yet despite the monotony of farm life, the longer we live in Krang Truop, the more fearful and anxious I become.
Created on September 28, 2015 (updated September 13, 2018)

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