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When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge Paperback – 12 Sep 2001
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A gut-wrenching story, told with honesty, restraint, and dignity.--Ha Jin, author of Waiting
Intelligent and morally aware...[Him] tells us what it was like to struggle to survive while others played out utopian dreams.
An inspiring story that draws hope from horror.
There are few books that give a refugee's point of view as clearly and passionately as Him's.
Astonishing and heartbreaking...Written in spare, visual prose that makes the world it describes tangible.--Katherine A. Powers
A touching and illuminating human account and should not be missed by anyone around the world.--Le Ly Hayslip, author of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places
About the Author
Chanrithy Him, born in 1965, lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she works for the Khmer Adolescent Project, studying post-traumatic stress disorder among Cambodians.
Top customer reviews
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.
This is the early 70s, when Cambodia became an experiment in radical socialism, and the Khmer Rouge took power and attempted to return the country to its pure, peasant history. Intellectuals were persecuted, farmers lauded and the entire population coerced into forced labour, resulting in mass malnutrition, disease, death and genocide. Figures vary but the commonly accepted fact is that two million people died, which equated to 25% of the country’s population.
Him’s experience tells her story from the inside. The explosion of the Vietnam war onto their own soil, the break-up of her family, the loyal bonds of blood and country, the grinding misery of starvation and physical deprivation all take us with her, step by uncertain step. Her description of the ‘hospital’ in which her mother lay is almost unbearable.
All this seen through a child’s eyes, conditioned to good manners and respect, to be thrown into a feral environment. Survival, food and reducing empathy to its narrowest circles is at the heart of this moving and powerful narrative.
It’s a tough read, taking the reader along a bleak journey, with small spots of sunshine lit by human kindness. Yet all is overshadowed by a power-hungry ideology and its crushing hold on the population.
This is an important book, the human face of a political tragedy, and a sobering read for enthusiasts of dystopian YA.
You’ll enjoy this is you liked: Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Minaret by Leila Aboulela
Ideal Accompaniments: Fish-heads in rice, cold water and the theme to The Killing Fields.
It is a well written, horrifying story of the nightmare that was 70s Cambodia.
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