18 June, 2017

Beautiful hero : how we survived the Khmer Rouge by Jennifer H. Lau

The Khmer Rouge killed 2 million people out of a population of 6 million in Cambodia. After reading this book you wonder how you would cope in a regime like the one this family managed to survive. I am fairly sure I would have been 'whacked and dumped' (a term used in the book), fairly early on. 

The author, Geng (now Jennifer), was a child when the Khmer Rouge forcibly relocated her family. Her parents, brother and two younger sisters only had moments to grab what they could, and had to walk for days from comfortable city life to be resettled in the country. It was a struggle for survival against starvation, disease, parasites, forced labour and the brutality of the Khmer Rouge.

For the next four and a half years it was her mother who kept her family alive, but to do this she had to have a stone heart. She was hard and sometimes cruel to the children to ensure their survival. There were moments when Geng hated her mother, as she had no chance to be a child, but now she has admiration at what her mother achieved while retaining her humanity and dignity.

Harrowing, and hard to imagine the horrors they would have seen, this book shows a part of history of which we should be aware. A grim but utterly compelling read, told by an adult, much later, but with the matter of fact voice of the child she was at the time. She sticks to personal experience rather than inserting political explanations. HIghly recommended

(The title is a homage to her mother Meiyeng. Mei means Beautiful and Yeng means Hero.)

TitleBeautiful hero : how we survived the Khmer Rouge
AuthorJennifer H Lau

Recommended by Anita S, Blockhouse Bay Library

Anita S reads widely and eclectically, but most often random non-fiction fact books, good general and teen fiction (often dystopian future types), fantasy and sci-fi if they cover a new angle on something, kids books and... actually she'll take a look at most stuff. Books are great! She also loves art and illustration

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