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When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge [Paperback]

Chanrithy Him
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 Sep 2001
This is one of the first childhood memoirs to emerge from the hell of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Capturing the overwhelming immediacy of the baffling events, Chanrithy Him writes through the eyes of her younger self in the present tense. She vividly recounts her trek through the hell of the "killing fields" and gives a child's-eye view of a world where rudimentary labour camps are the norm and modern technology no longer exists. Death and illness become companions in the camps; yet throughout, her family remain loyal to one another.

Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New edition edition (12 Sep 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393322106
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393322101
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 14.1 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 364,584 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The head of state, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, charged today that "Vietnamese Communists were increasingly infiltrating into Cambodia." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and moving book - unmissable 2 May 2004
I thought this book was amazing. The author had lived through the most unimaginably horrible experiences under the Khmer Rouge yet she writes in a way that is not bitter or in any way sympathy seeking. I found I could not put this book down, each time it seemed her life could not get any worse something awful happened and I really don't know how she survived. I think this book shows how much a human being can endure without giving in and Ms Him is a shining example of this. Im so glad that she has a new life in America now and I hope many people read this book and realise what the Cambodians went through under this terrible regime.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Anyone who has read other Khmer Rouge surivors' accounts will find themselves on painfully familiar territory. Like Molyda Szymusiak's "The Stones Cry Out", this book tells of an intelligent, middle class girl whose adolescence is blighted by Pol Pot (and of course the foreign supporters who shamefully helped him along or turned blind eyes).
It is a well written, horrifying story of the nightmare that was 70s Cambodia.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-Rendering 14 Aug 2006
By Anon
This is the story of two diametrically opposite childhoods. One of a carefree, intelligent young girl who revels in the company and love of her mak and pa and numerous siblings in time of peace - something most of us leave for granted and assume childhood should be. This world is cruelly shattered and the remaining sessions of the book are a hideous reminder of the depths of human suffering. All the while reading this book, you are made to feel a passive onlooker to the heart-rendering story of this teenager in the midst of the depravity around her. Instinctivly with each passing chapter I felt the urge to pull this little girl out of this madness and throw the book away - as if somehow the suffering might end. But the morbid curiosity compels you to keep reading - and the suffering only worsens, the lump in your throat grows larger. Most will not suffer the indignities of this little child in a multiple of lifetimes - but throughout she overcomes to persevere and outlast those who wrought this 'crime against humanity' in the truest sense of the word. Not a read for the faint hearted - as the cover of the book says 'gut-wrenching' - for everyone else a must.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a must-read 26 Sep 2000
By A Customer
Don't slot this into the war or "KR" genre. This is an eloquent and touching book by any standards, and despite the heavy context, I am certain that anybody, upon reading the first pages, will be spellbound. Fans of "God of Small Things" eat your heart out - this book invites you to observe the minutiae of life in seemingly exotic lands without being trite, and will leave you knowing things about yourself that you didn't before you read it.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "It lives symbiotically inside of me." 15 Dec 2002
By taking a rest HALL OF FAME
That sentence is how Ms. Chanrithy Him describes where her soul rests, her old soul. When she came to America she feels she has a new body, but her core remains untouched.

Another reviewer states that these stories make him angry. There is no manner with which you can read a book like this and not feel a range of emotions of which anger might be the kindest description of what eats at you. The evil, the cruelty that humans inflict upon each other is so regular and so savage, I finish books like this and I don't know what to feel. If this were an isolated incident, an aberration, it would be easier to examine as any exception may be dissected.

Just during the 20th Century the following list of Genocides come to mind in the order they occurred, the slaughter of Armenians by the "Young Turks" when they decided to try to eradicate Armenia once again. This is where the phrase "Young Turk" originated. So if you hear it used, hopefully the speaker is not complimenting on the genocidal personality to whom the comment is directed. The speaker is probably just poorly informed. The Turkish Government to this day denies the Genocide ever took place. The Holocaust of the Jewish people by the Germany of WW II. Unlike Turkey, Germany has taken responsibility for what took place within her borders. The Japanese and the butchery they engaged in while they occupied Nanking in China. The demons who are described in this book including, The Khmer Rouge, lead by Pol Pot, again millions died. Arguably the distinction of greatest mass murder of all time would be the Russia/USSR of Lenin, Stalin, and the criminals who followed them. The carnage continues in Chechnya, and the majority of the Former Soviet Republics are trying to stay fed and warm.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring and heart breaking 24 Nov 2011
By neats
Format:Kindle Edition
Beginning to end you feel part of this story, yet you realise how lucky you are to have not been growing up in Cambodia during the Khymer Rouge. Stories like this are so important and need to be read by as many people - what happened should never be forgotten. This is a personal account with a lot of emotion and realism.

You wont get any answers nor will you develop a greater understanding of what happened and why. But then neither did the author which makes it even more poignant.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly amazing piece of non fiction 29 Oct 2007
'When Broken Glass Floats' is, on the very face of it, another grueling Khmer Rouge story - a real life tragic story about life under history's most brutal regime. In this it is a brilliant success - with vivid characters that seem as real as they were, this is a very human account of a breathtaking story.

But, in actual fact, When Broken Glass Floats seems to go beyond these bounds: by constantly talking about K'mai religion and culture you come to appreciate not just the immense suffering, but also the way in which a K'mai person, with their unique cultural outlook, came to view the events as they unfolded. With constant information about and references to K'mai language, beliefs, stories, folklore and social structures, the full effect of the events upon such a beautiful country can really be realised.

Whilst many books tell of stories under the Khmer Rouge in a clinical, culturally sterilised fashion, this author keeps her heritage with her at every step. For this reason, I recommend it as the best personal story to read, whether you've read everything else on the era already, or absolutely nothing at all.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
As sad as the stories are, this is another great life story of a not so nice time for Cambodia. This added to my love for this country having traveled through it.
Published 9 months ago by Ms. K. A. Sharman
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good read
Very interesting book. It is an easy read and at the same time very informative about this period in cambodia.
Published 10 months ago by Corinne Sauer
5.0 out of 5 stars very good
well written and such a great read. it gives you a clear picture about what went on and people delt with it all
Published 11 months ago by jana
5.0 out of 5 stars When Broken Glass Floats
This book is well written but difficult to read because of the true struggles of the Cambodian people illustrated in the telling of Pol Pot's murderous cruel regime. Read more
Published 19 months ago by babmac
4.0 out of 5 stars A story that must be told
Awesome. This is harrowing in places but unbelievably inspiring.
What happened is completely inconceivable to those who weren't there and even more so as it was in living... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Eliza Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight into Khmer Rouge
Read the book while travelling Vietnam and Cambodia and it gave me a very good insight into the troubles and suffering of the Cambodian people. Read more
Published on 26 Mar 2012 by Jenpen
5.0 out of 5 stars A beatifully told story of survival in a reign of terror
I picked up this book with great reluctance, knowing it to be yet another story of the victims of a war-torn country. In this day and age, there are sadly so many of them. Read more
Published on 11 Jun 2011 by R. V. Sewell
4.0 out of 5 stars Heart-rending, but nothing you haven't read before
A child's view of the devastation caused to Cambodia by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge.
It's a good introduction to this dark time for anyone who wants an introduction to this period,... Read more
Published on 2 Jan 2004 by Mrs. O. Chalmers
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