216 pages; published May 2012
One day, Arn is a street-wise child – catching frogs, gambling a little, and sneaking into movies in his city in Cambodia. Then, the Khmer Rouge took control of the country, forced Arn and all the citizens into work camps. His life became defined by starvation, endless labor, fear, and death. Arn spent four years in the heart of what became known as The Killing Fields, surviving partly because of his skill as a musician and partly because he told himself just never fall down.
Because it is told wholly in the voice of the child, this story unfolds with no context. There is no explanation of the politics or background. It is simply a litany of one child’s brutal experience, drawing the reader into the horror and confusion of the events. The result is both stunning and devastating
This book is based on the real life of Arn Chorn-Pond who is now an internationally known peace activist. It was particuularly devastating to realize that these events are so recent that parts of my simple, easy childhood overlapped with these brutal events in his.