Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge
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VINE VOICEon June 9, 2000
I read this book immediately after I finished "First They Killed My Father." Both are autobiographies by young women who were children at the time of the Khmer Rouge's rule of Cambodia. Rather than being redundant, I found that this book complemented the other.
Both girls were daughters of relatively privileged families who were part of the forced evacuation of Phnom Phen. The author of this one, Ms. Him, was a few years older, and this slight age difference provides some different perspective. In addition, Ms. Him's family evacuated in a different geographical direction, which also affected her family's displacement over those years. The author shows how, as a child, she demonstrated incredible determination and courage in the face of the most horrendous conditions imaginable -- she even escapes one work camp as she was near death from dysentary.
This book provides another necessary and compelling autobiography of a horrible time in history.
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on April 4, 2000
In a strange twist, I knew the author as a student, and later a collegue doing research on the Khmer Rouge era. I heard parts of the story from her, but was overwhelmed by the prose as she told it. I have heard the stories of many Cambodians, but because of this book I felt I could actually see what was happening. Her family and friends came alive for me on the pages of this remarkable narrative. It is a triumphant tribute to her departed relatives. I wish her the best and hope she will continue writing.
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on March 28, 2000
Through my readings of books dealing with the barbarism of the human soul I have gained a profound appreciation for the subtleties of life. This work brings that understanding another giant leap forward.
The plight of Chanrithy Him through the relentless suffering of the Khmer Rouge is no less than heart sickening. You will discover a profound sense of respect for her and the victims and survivors of the infamous Pol Pot regime.
This book has a similar approach to another - "First They Killed My Father" - by Loung Ung. Both books command you to continue reading. I could not put them down.
All in all, a superb work on a less than superb topic - required reading for anyone interested in Asian culture, human suffering, and in a surprising way - human survival.
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on April 7, 2000
Told in an unusually vivid style, "When Broken Glass Floats" provides a striking new perspective even to those readers already hardened from study of events in Cambodia during the Pol Pot regime. The scenes of the evacuation of Phnom Penh, family separation, slow starvation, and the deaths of members of the author's immediate family materialize as if on film.
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on April 30, 2000
This book made me angry. But then again, these books always get me emotional. Maybe it's because I'm Irish or maybe its an inseparable sense of justice born into my veins. Bad things happen for the most meaningless or stupidheaded! reasons. In the wind of total disregard for life, life stands to face it with unfathomable stubborness to survive, and family becomes the only importance. Well, I have yet to discuss this memoir with my peers, and yes I do feel I need to come to grips with certain grim human themes Chanrithy Him has written about, sometimes in poetic form. In short, this book has potential to become the next hot topic for your friends when it comes to discussing larger questions about humanity's dark side.
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on September 2, 2000
When Broken Glass Floats is the true story of the tragic demise of a Cambodian family told through the eyes of an adolescent girl coming to age under the infamous Khmer Rouge regime. Immediately I was drawn into Chanrithy Him's ability to create a brief version of normalcy before the Khmer Rouge took over. How quickly the reader is transported from the stable love of a family into a place one could call hell. This is a story of a girl who's day to day struggle is to stay alive. And yet imbedded in the everyday battery that Chan writes about, are full fledged stories about discovering the sweet taste of grass, learning how to catch fish while simultaneously outsmarting slave drivers, and befriending a girl who's courage makes way for an escape. Chan endures illness and watches members of her family murdered, worked and starved to death. The narrator is both a heroine and a girl with wisdom that becomes a cornerstone in her survival. Chanrithy Him is a very fine writer. Her ability to conclude this book of unthinkable brutality with chronicles of a family run-post-war waffle stand, a personal yearning to learn English and a new found passion to live, demonstrate enormous grace we can all learn from.
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on May 31, 2000
Chanrithy made a great effort of making the readers understand the sufferings of living under the rule of Khmer Rouge. I felt the pain, fear, and hunger that she and all Cambodians went through in such a short period of time. I admire her determination to survive.
The shortcoming of the book is that Chanrithy seemed to leave out certain stories untold, making the readers wonder what had happened. For example, her sister, Ra, was married to a total stranger when the Khmer Rouge stressed the need to increase the population. It was unclear to me how Ra ever got rid of the husband as he was never mentioned again in the book.
Overall, this is a good book which provides insights to the darkness of humanity.
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on April 16, 2000
This haunting yet awe inspiring account of life grabs you from the start puts you in the middle of her life and doesn't let you go. Her underling love and commitment to family leads to extaordinary acts of courage. The writting is vivid and entancing. You are drawn in by the childs voice and perception of how things are. You feel her pain as her inocense is lost to the enemy and her joys as she pulls her family together after each crisis. This is an account of life that will not be forgotten. Charinthy has much wisdom and desire to better the human condition despite what has happened to her and she expresses some of it here. Her spirit in indomitable.
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on June 30, 2002
I'll spend little time reviewing this heartbreaking memoir, as I'll get upset. The writing style is simple enough for a middle-school student, but the subject matter is so dark that I'll never be old or jaded enough to handle it. Bill Clinton's UN ambassador Richard Holbrook once said, "it will be a hundred years before Cambodia emerges from the horror of the Pol Pot regime." This book shows why.
I remember having a civil but testy argument with a dear Jewish friend. I told him that the Holocaust could never be "overblown", but that it had recieved exorbitant attention compared to other tragedies of the 20th century world. Rwanda, Armenia, Cambodia & China's 'Cultural Revolution' deserve to be known, and they are not. My friend insisted that the Holocaust was different because of the methodical murder and the sheer numbers. We argued, paused, then went right back at it.
I felt he was wrong and I still do. Chanrithy Him tells of death in the dozens, not in the millions. Is that less important? No it is not, and this book shows why. The fact that this book could even be written shows that life - ultimately - can triumph. But not without horrific loss.
You have honored your family, Chanrithy Him. And I will not forget your story.
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HALL OF FAMEon June 12, 2000
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 you feel. The evil, the cruelty that Humans inflict upon each other is so regular and so savage, I like 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, 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 Republics are trying to stay fed and warm.
Ms. Him is an astonishing human being. She not only survived this horror as a child, she had the courage to recall and place this horror in writing so that the rest of the world would know what she saw. She is an example of what the Human Spirit and its desire to survive are capable of. It is beyond my ability to imagine.
This little girl who would remember and continue to display respect with the traditional "sampea" when greeting someone, when to do so could have gotten her killed. She was as scared as anyone caught in this man made hell, but she was defiant and true to herself, perhaps that helped her to survive.
I had to put this book aside more than once while reading. The last book I had as much trouble getting through was "The Rape Of Nanking". I never finished that book. I have read about the Historical events that I listed above, but that book was especially brutal. If may have been the photographs.
The photographs in this book are not what you would expect. Ms. Him leaves the story between her and the reader, no photographs to shock, just her memories.
Genocide does not stop it only pauses, as the Hutus and Tutsies recently demonstrated. The sad conclusion may be that this sort of evil is part of who we are as a species. The events in Cambodia differ from events in the US in time only. What was done to Native Americans, The Slave Trade and the race problems that linger to this day, the difference is of method and time only.
Ms. Him also shares the amusing stories of the difficulties of shaking hands, or of her translating for Doctors when the description may include certain areas more private than others. But by sharing this she also shares her transition from her culture as a child and then her new life as a young woman.
Lest anyone suggest I have a problem with my own Country's History, I will save you the trouble, I do. The World looks to us whether we choose the role or not, and candor with ourselves must come first.
In the end it did feel good when the thrill of the future was dominated by the fact she and the survivors in her Family were coming to the US. Read the description of her first understanding of freedom, how dry your eyes will not be.
Thank you Ms. Him, and my condolences on the Family and Friends that were taken from you. Your coming to The United States will make us a better Country.
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