Source: I received a copy in exchange for my honest review.
The Zero Years were the years 1975 – 1979 in Cambodia’s history. This is when the Khmer Rouge took over Phnom Penh the capital. The author lived those years. He was one of eleven children in his family. Most of his siblings did not survive. His father was a professor. When the Khmer Rouge came in, Seng’s father had already heard rumors of what was happening to professionals and those considered the upper crust of society. The first group of soldiers came into their village with white flags claiming to bring peace. The next group came in bringing death. They were taken out of their homes and forced to walk for days with little rest or food. They were loaded on trains where they were packed so tight many died. Through all of this I kept thinking it reminded me of the holocaust trains. Seng had seen so many dead bodies that he eventually became numb to it. Seeing a body hung from a tree was just an everyday occurrence. This was just the beginning of the horror he would live.
This was the first I had ever really heard of the Khmer Rouge atrocities. It is sad to say this considering my age now. However, at the time this was starting I was 17 and really sheltered from all of this. We know of all of the people killed by Hitler. How is it that we don’t teach about the millions of Cambodians exterminated? How many more stories like this will we need to read before we finally learn to value life?
The book was well written. I felt like I was on that walk with him. There is so much more to this story. Some of it happy and some of it not. If you want to find out what happened to him and his family you will need to read this book. You definitely won’t regret it. You might even learn quite a bit.
Author Info from his website:SENG TY was born in the Kampong Speu province of Cambodia, the son of a respected physician who taught him to value life, aspire to humility, and seek the good in people. He was thirteen when he made his way alone to a refugee camp in Thailand in 1981. His story was featured in TIME Magazine’s article “Children of War”, and was read by an American family in Amherst, Massachusetts, who adopted him a year later. Now he is a citizen of the United States, a husband, a father and an educator in the Lowell, MA School System.
Seng will never rid himself of his ghosts, nor will he forget the blood-chilling atrocities he has witnessed and experienced. However, he doesn’t crave revenge against those who carried out these atrocities. He desires to share his story of survival and courage only in order to give hope to others. He was one of the children of war tour in the US cities in early 1984, he shared his story through the Phil Donahue Show, many major newspapers, and CBS 60 Minutes in 1999.
Seng’s wish is that The Years of Zero will give him a platform to expand his message beyond the circle of his students in Lowell, to people all over the world who are in need of a little hope.