In 1970’s Cambodia a war began and would forever change the lives of hundred of thousands of people. I had heard of the Khmer Rouge but only as a young American girl would hear of them. Just a strange word in a conversation of things I didn’t understand.
After reading “Never Fall Down” by Patricia McCormick, I will never think of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge, or Pol Pot in that detached way. The main character Arn, a real person who McCormick interviewed extensively for her book, led a poor boy’s life in the city. He gambled and won, skipped school when possible, and tried his best to take care of his little brother without causing too much trouble with his older sisters. When the “men in the black pajamas” show up and tell everyone the war is over, he is happy. Until men are killed and the entire city forced to evacuate on foot. Men, women and children died along the roadside from starvation, exhaustion, and murder.
This short book follows Arn through his journey from death camp to musician, from victim to victor. Before being split from his family, Arn’s aunt had this advice:
“You show you care, you die. You show fear, you die. You show nothing, maybe you live.”