This thesis studies memoirs by survivors of the Cambodian Genocide (1975-1979), the on-going genocide of the Uyghur Muslims in Chinese reeducation centers, and the prison-state of North Korea. These current or past genocides share the goal of controlling certain groups of people or eliminating those the government cannot control. Fortunately, there are the lucky few who survive these genocides, and some have published memoirs about what they experienced. Loung Ung’s memoir First They Killed My Father shares what her life was like when the Cambodian Genocide occurred when she was just five years old. At this young age, Ung already had to face the hardships of war. From never having enough food to eat to the constant fear of her loved ones being brutally killed, Ung was robbed of a childhood, and her memoir traces her journey from innocence to experience. Gulbahar Haitiwaji’s memoir How I Survived a Chinese ‘Reeducation’ Camp exposes the Uyghur Genocide occurring in China at this moment. Haitiwaji is one of the few Uyghurs to tell the story of what is happening in the Xinjiang region of China. Currently, Uyghurs in Xinjiang are being forced into Chinese reeducation camps with the purpose of completely stripping them of their culture. After a trip to visit her family, Haitiwaji found herself trapped in one of these detention centers and her memoir describes both what she experienced and what it was like to see the place she once called home be destroyed. Similarly, Yeonmi Park’s memoir, In Order to Live, shares her life in and escape from North Korea. Park lived in North Korea until she escaped at the age of thirteen. In North Korea, she had no freedom at all. Every day she was being manipulated by government propaganda and was told the sacrifices she was making were for the betterment of the whole country. However, she was one of the many starving children who was often left to take care of herself. At thirteen she and her mother began their two-year journey to South Korea. However, all of their problems did not suddenly disappear once they left North Korea. Ung, Haitiwaji, and Park faced some of the most traumatic experiences one can imagine, and Ung and Park were only children at the time. Their stories detail what they and their families endured: starvation, torture, and family separation. Though each of these women faced different events at different points in time, what they share is perseverance, bravery, and the will to survive. Memoirs like Ung’s First They Killed My Father, Haitiwaji’s How I Survived a Chinese ‘Reeducation’ Camp, and Park’s In Order to Live emphasize the power of storytelling and give the reader a better understanding of the events being depicted, and how these events affected those lucky enough to survive.
Dr. Benjamin D. Carson, Thesis Advisor
Dr. Elizabeth Veisz, Committee Member
Dr. James Crowley, Committee Member
Copyright and Permissions
Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.
Burkle, Caroline. (2023). The Power of Storytelling and Memory in Ung's First They Killed My Father, Haitiwaji's How I Survived a Chinese 'Reeducation' Camp, and Park's In Order to Live. In BSU Honors Program Theses and Projects. Item 598. Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/honors_proj/598
Copyright © 2023 Caroline Burkle