In her 2001 debut, Loung Ung wrote about surviving the Cambodian genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. First They Killed My Father is among the very best memoirs with teen appeal that shine a light on recent global history, along with Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane, Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone and Persepolis.
First They Killed My Father was a national bestseller and won the 2001 Asian/Pacific American Librarian’s Association award for Excellence in Adult Non-Fiction Literature. It was included in YALSA’s Outstanding Books for the College Bound in both 2004 and 2009.
Today we review the third book in the author’s trilogy about her life. Lulu in the Sky is a story of healing, advocacy and love. HarperCollins offers a considerable excerpt on their website.
I was fortunate to see Loung Ung speak to a high school audience several years ago. She is both incredibly inspiring and charmingly vulnerable. If you are looking for an author to visit, you might consider finding out if she is available.
Adult/High School–As a child in Cambodia, Ung saw her father taken away by soldiers of the new Communist regime. Her life and country were turned upside down and her family suffered from starvation and the atrocities of war. At age 10, she was chosen by her family to immigrate to the United States with her brother and his wife. These early experiences are recounted in First they Killed My Father (2000) and Lucky Child (2005, both HarperCollins). In this book, she continues to describe life in her new country. Living in Vermont, Ung became a “regular” American. While in college, she fell in love with a young man, but after serious bouts with depression and anger, she realized that she needed to come to terms with her past before she could commit to a future with someone. Her journey of trust, love, and hope was difficult, and she worked hard to reconcile her fears of abandonment, hunger, and loneliness. Her love story will keep readers turning the pages in the hopes of a positive conclusion. The author’s many trips to Cambodia as an activist working to bring humanitarian efforts to her homeland and political awareness to her new country helped to bridge her two worlds. The rich tapestry of Cambodian history and its destruction by the Pol Pot Regime is embodied in the story of Ung’s life. This book can stand alone or read along with her others for the full story. The author’s honest look at her fears and her work as an activist are inspiring and compelling. An excellent conclusion to the trilogy.–Connie Williams, Petaluma High School, CA