July 1975–August 1976

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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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. admonish
    warn strongly; put on guard
    “Quiet,” Pa admonishes me. “We don’t want anyone to hear you crying.
  2. solemn
    dignified and somber in manner or character
    “Friendship does not matter; they may not have a choice.” Pa is very solemn as he speaks to me.
  3. fatigue
    exhaust or get tired through overuse or great strain
    “No, we cannot argue with them. We will go wherever they choose to take us.” Pa sounds fatigued as he puts me on the ground.
  4. disclose
    make known to the public information previously kept secret
    It is best if I just stop talking completely so I won’t unintentionally disclose information about our family.
  5. ration
    distribute in fixed allowances
    Depending on when the truck arrives with the supplies, every week or two the chief will ration each family salt, rice, and grains.
  6. scarce
    deficient in quantity or number compared with the demand
    After a few weeks, even the leaves are becoming scarce.
  7. discontent
    showing or experiencing dissatisfaction or restless longing
    “We have to leave,” Pa tells us one night. “People are discontent.
  8. scapegoat
    someone who is punished for the errors of others
    We are different, your ma speaks Khmer with a Chinese accent, you kids have lighter skin, and, besides me, this family does not know much about farming, so the villagers will make us the first scapegoats for their problems.
  9. malaria
    a disease caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite
    Meng had said when we arrived at Anlungthmor five months ago that there were approximately three hundred new people there, now more than two hundred of the new people have died from starvation, food poisoning, and malaria.
  10. evacuate
    move people from their homes or country
    Seven months after the Khmer Rouge forcefully evacuated us from our home in Phnom Penh we arrive in the village of Ro Leap.
  11. contaminate
    make impure
    These devices have been imported from foreign countries and thus are contaminated. Imports are defined as evil because they allowed foreign countries a way to invade Cambodia, not just physically but also culturally.
  12. vanity
    feelings of excessive pride
    By wearing the same thing, we rid ourselves of the corrupt Western creation of vanity.
  13. communal
    for or by a group rather than individuals
    In this village, as in the whole of our new and pure society, we all live in a communal system and share everything.
  14. comprise
    include or contain
    Though we are all supposed to be equal, there are nonetheless three levels of citizenship in the village. The first-class citizenry comprises the chief, who has authority over the whole village, his aides, and the Khmer Rouge soldiers.
  15. inadequate
    lacking the requisite qualities or resources to meet a task
    To instill a sense of loyalty to the Angkar and break what the Khmer Rouge views as an inadequate urban work ethic, the new people are given the hardest work and the longest hours.
  16. expendable
    suitable to be used up
    In the Khmer Rouge agrarian society, only good workers are valuable, all others are expendable.
  17. endure
    undergo or be subjected to
    However, at ten years old, Kim knows he has to endure their cruelty to help feed his family.
  18. heinous
    extremely wicked or deeply criminal
    Stealing food is viewed as a heinous crime and, if caught, offenders risk either getting their fingers cut off in the public square or being forced to grow a vegetable garden in an area near identified minefields.
  19. conscript
    enroll into service compulsorily
    To protect Khouy from being conscripted into the army and Laine from being abducted by soldiers, they are married quickly in a quiet, secret ceremony with both sets of parents giving their blessings.
  20. sacrifice
    endure the loss of
    “Everyone has to honor and sacrifice for Angkar!” the soldiers yell. “Anyone who refuses Angkar’s request is an enemy and will be destroyed!
  21. despair
    a state in which all hope is lost or absent
    In a matter of minutes, the soldiers come and lead the children away while we watch in quiet despair.
  22. edible
    suitable for use as food
    We have eaten everything that is edible, from rotten leaves on the ground to the roots we dig up.
  23. alternative
    one of a number of things from which only one can be chosen
    Now, when the only alternative is to starve, I fight others for a dead animal lying in the road.
  24. protrude
    swell outwards
    I can count every rib in my rib cage, but my stomach protrudes outward, bloated like a ball between my chest and hips.
  25. permeate
    spread or diffuse through
    Often the bodies are left in the hot sun, until the smell permeates the surrounding air, causing everyone passing by to pinch their noses.
  26. obsessed
    having excessive or compulsive concern with something
    Pa says that the Angkar is obsessed with ethnic cleansing.
  27. condition
    the state of health
    I run to them for news of my sister’s condition, though in my heart I know she is already dead.
  28. contort
    twist and press out of shape
    “They acted as if we should be thankful we were told. Now she’s dead, and we cannot find her.” Pa tries to control his anger but his face contorts.
  29. seep
    pass gradually or leak or as if through small openings
    In the thick grass, my tears pour out for my sister and seep into the earth.
  30. regret
    sadness associated with some wrong or disappointment
    I wonder about the regrets Ma must have over their relationship, regrets about all those times they fought in Phnom Penh over what music Keav listened to or the clothes she wore.
Created on September 28, 2015 (updated April 9, 2019)

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