Monday, June 10, 2013
Arn Chorn-Pond is eleven years old when the Khmer Rouge soldiers roll into his Cambodian town. They have won the revolution and have plans to make the entire country equal. They start by evacuating Arn's city saying the Americans plan to bomb it. They march everyone out of the city for days, with little food and water. People begin falling down and dying of dehydration and bullet wounds. "In just one day people can get use to seeing dead body." pg. 22
When Arn and his family arrive in the countryside first they are stripped of their clothes and everyone must wear the same set of black pajamas. Then their hair is cut short, including the girls. Next they take away their possessions, saying that all belongs to Angka (the ruling body of the Khmer Rouge), every pot, pan, bowl and spoon. Then they take away their names. Everyone must be addressed by Comrade. "Now all of us, we live as equal, no rich, no poor." pg 31 Then they separate the families. Children are removed from their parents, men are separated from women. Angka is their family now. Everyday they are made to work in the fields to produce rice as their rations of food become less and less.
Arn is exposed to death every day and the only thing that keeps him alive is the music he plays for the soldiers and the friendships he’s made. Eventually Vietnam invades Cambodia and Arn is thrown into the role of child soldier.
At the beginning of Never Fall Down, it is hard to read about the violence and atrocities being committed in the Cambodian genocide. Towards the middle, the violence lessens as Arn makes his journey out of the work camp. For some people this book will be hard to read, the violence too much to bear. If Arn can live it, the least I can do is read it. It is important as a reader to read the stories of those who have lived through extraordinary circumstances and to give weight and meaning to what they endured, experienced and lived through. Sometimes the most difficult stories are the ones that inspire us, encourage us and make us aware of what happens around the world.
This is the third book I have read by Patricia McCormick and I eagerly awaited it’s release. McCormick is a writer who tells a difficult story with grace and ease. She educates her readers about issues that are central to problems going on in the world today. Never Fall Down educates us about the history of Cambodia and teaches us that we must never give up hope that if we fall down, someone, somewhere will help. We must always be willing to help those in need and to keep hope alive.
Never Fall Down is based on the REAL LIFE of Arn Chorn-Pond.
Here is Patricia McCormick and Arn Chorn-Pond in a short video clip about the book and Cambodia.
You can find more information about Arn and the amazing life he has led since 1979 at his website