Sunday, July 20, 2014

Wow. Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick is one of those books which isn't pleasant to read, but after you finish, you want to immediately have everyone read it.

It's a somewhat novelized memoir of Arn Chorn-Pond's experience surviving the Cambodian Genocide of 1974-1979. McCormick's Author's Note at the end explains why the book is marketed as historical fiction instead of a biography. Part of the reason includes the fact that McCormick writes the book from Chorn-Pond's point of view. It's written in a style of broken English which gives readers a very distinct view of the narrator. English is clearly not the narrator's first language, but they speak it fluently enough to give description that can tear your heart in two. Sometimes I would feel myself choking back tears after reading a single sentence.

I honestly didn't know much about the Cambodian Genocide--it was before my time, and it was never something I heard about in school. I could recognize the name Khmer Rouge as a Communist group, but I had no idea how terrible it had gotten. Never Fall Down begins with an epigraph that ends by saying: "It is the worst genocide ever inflicted by a country on its own people." But even reading the first paragraph of the Wikipedia article on the subject is heart-breaking: "one and a half to three million people were killed [...] deaths of an estimated 25 percent of the total population [...] Up to 20,000 mass graves known as the Killing Fields have been uncovered."

Arn Chorn-Pond's survival is incredible. He somehow manages to more-or-less grift his way through forced labor camps, forced child soldier acts, and horrible atrocities. I think it's an important book to read--even though it's not easy--because we (as a people/world) don't want these things to keep happening (even though they do). I kept saying to my roommate, "This is so sad. It's too sad to even cry about." Instead, I just feel this ache deep in my soul that people have to endure such tragedies. I would recommend that everyone read this book.

Favorite Quote: "You not living. And you not dead. You living dead."

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