December 1976–May 1978

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. constant
    uninterrupted in time and indefinitely long continuing
    We live under the constant fear of being discovered as supporters of the former government.
  2. thrust
    push upward
    Thrusting out his chin and holding his head high, he tells the soldiers he is ready to go.
  3. rigid
    fixed and unmoving
    As Kim’s face crumbles, Pa’s face is rigid and calm. “Look after your Ma, your sisters, and yourself,” he says.
  4. devout
    deeply religious
    Dear gods, Pa is a very devout Buddhist. Please help my Pa return home. He is not mean and does not like to hurt other people. Help him return and I will do anything you say. I will devote my entire life to you.
  5. etch
    cause to stand out or be clearly defined or visible
    I hate the soldiers now as much as I hate the Angkar and their leader, Pol Pot. I etch their faces into my memory and plan for the day when I can come back and kill them.
  6. unbearable
    incapable of being put up with
    His pining for our father is unbearable, but he is the man of the house now and cannot speak openly of his suffering.
  7. prolong
    lengthen in time; cause to be or last longer
    This little bit of food he’s able to bring to her prolongs her life just a little more, keeping her with us just a little longer.
  8. stifle
    smother or suppress
    I turn and see Ma put her hands over her mouth to stifle a scream.
  9. cringe
    draw back, as with fear, pain, or embarrassment
    She cries over his cut swollen lips and cringes as she touches the blood dripping from his skull.
  10. eliminate
    end, take out, or do away with
    The Angkar fears the survivors and children of the men they have killed will rise up one day and take their revenge. To eliminate this threat, they kill the entire family.
  11. determination
    firmness of purpose
    Tell them you are orphans and they will take you in. Change your name; don’t even tell each other your new names. Don’t let people know who you are.” Ma’s voice grows stronger with determination as the words pour out.
  12. comrade
    a term of address for males engaged in the same movement
    In Khmer I address the supervisor as “ comrade elder sister” with as much strength in my voice as I can muster.
  13. propaganda
    information that is spread to promote some cause
    We squat on the ground waiting for the Met Bong to read the latest news or propaganda from the Angkar.
  14. incubate
    grow under conditions that promote development
    Every night I sit there and imitate their movements while hatred incubates inside me, growing larger and larger.
  15. presume
    take to be the case or to be true
    I do not know what to expect of the new camp, but when Met Bong says it is a child soldier training camp, I presume it will be a big place with many weapons and soldiers living there.
  16. obligatory
    required by compulsion or convention
    Having heard it many times, I know when to break into the obligatory claps and screams.
  17. furor
    an interest followed with exaggerated zeal
    The children’s furor matches that of the Met Bongs.
  18. traitor
    someone who betrays his country by committing treason
    This means we must report to the Angkar suspected infiltrators and traitors.
  19. desensitize
    cause to be less responsive to or affected by something
    All this information we get in gory detail until we too become desensitized to the violence.
  20. machete
    a large knife used as a weapon or for cutting vegetation
    All these tools you know already. We use them to harvest rice, plant vegetables, and build houses. But in the hands of fighters, they are also weapons of war. The round sickle, the hoe, the rake, the hammer, the machete, the wooden stick, and a rifle.
  21. extend
    stretch out one's limbs or muscles, or the entire body
    “Your extended left hand holds and balances the rifle. Your right hand aims and squeezes the trigger. See, it’s easy!”
  22. clutch
    hold firmly, usually with one's hands
    That night I clutch the gun tight to my chest, my finger resting on the trigger, alternately aiming at the sight of the Youns and up in the sky for the witches.
  23. fend
    try to manage without help
    Though I tried to be strong, I was weak and did not know how I could fend for myself without Ma’s protection.
  24. tormented
    experiencing intense pain especially mental pain
    I am tormented by the knowledge of how much my family is willing to sacrifice for each other.
  25. severe
    extremely bad or unpleasant in degree or quality
    If Chou gets caught sneaking food she will be severely punished, but she risks it.
  26. assault
    attack someone physically or emotionally
    Ma was assaulted trying to get Geak a bit of chicken meat.
  27. stagger
    walk with great difficulty
    A cold draft hits me and pricks my skin with tiny stings as I imagine Keav staggering here alone to die among a thousand strangers.
  28. makeshift
    done or made using whatever is available
    In a makeshift hospital, on these yellow-stained cots, many of these patients will die before the sun rises tomorrow.
  29. suppress
    put out of one's consciousness
    My heart dances with hope, but I suppress it.
  30. symptom
    a sensation associated with a particular disease
    Though from our shiny faces and swollen bodies, we realize that we are all suffering from similar symptoms: stomachache, extreme exhaustion, diarrhea, and aching joints.
Created on September 28, 2015 (updated September 13, 2018)

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