The Years of Zero: Coming of Age Under the Khmer Rouge is a survivor’s account of the Cambodian genocide carried out by Pol Pot’s sadistic and terrifying Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s. It follows the author, Seng Ty, from the age of seven as he is plucked from his comfortable, middle-class home in a Phnom Penh suburb, marched along a blistering, black strip of highway into the jungle, and thrust headlong into the unspeakable barbarities of an agricultural labor camp.
Seng’s mother was worked to death while his siblings succumbed to starvation. His oldest brother was brought back from France and tortured in the secret prison of Tuol Sleng. His family’s only survivor and a mere child, Seng was forced to fend for himself, navigating the brainwashing campaigns and random depravities of the Khmer Rouge, determined to survive so he could bear witness to what happened in the camp.
The Years of Zero guides the reader through the author’s long, desperate periods of harrowing darkness, each chapter a painting of cruelty, caprice, and courage. It follows Seng as he sneaks mice and other living food from the rice paddies where he labors, knowing that the penalty for such defiance is death. It tracks him as he tries to escape into the jungle, only to be dragged back to his camp and severely beaten. Through it all, Seng finds a way to remain whole both in body and in mind. He rallies past torture, betrayal, disease and despair, refusing at every juncture to surrender to the murderers who have stolen everything he had.
As The Years of Zero concludes, the reader will have lived what Seng lived, risked what he risked, endured what he endured, and finally celebrate with him his unlikeliest of triumphs.
With remarkable passion and courage, Ty, a survivor of the murderous Khmer Rouge regime, recounts the pastoral days of his middle-class Cambodian childhood, under the loving care of his physician father and devoted mother before a time of widespread destruction and death. The author does not mince words when he lists a series of heart-stopping tragedies beginning with his father's death at the hands of the sadistic Pol Pot's soldiers, his mother's haunting demise from starvation in a labor camp, and his eldest brother's fatal torture in a secret prison. There were brutal mass killings throughout the stark landscape, and Ty writes of the constant surveillance by fellow citizens and the regime, his lone-survivor existence running just one step ahead of death, until he found the welcoming shelter of a Thai refugee camp. The book is a stunning tribute to Ty's resilience and determination, qualities that help him emerge from the experience somewhat whole he would eventually be featured in a Time magazine article, adopted by a middle-class family in Amherst, Mass., and given a chance to live the American dream. With equal measures of humor and menace, Ty's chronicle of endurance and flexibility allows us to cry and cheer for a war orphan who refused to quit life. (BookLife)
This book was amazing. I was reading it for college, and I ended up finishing it inunder 7 hours. That horror and sadness Send Ty witnessed will certainly remind me everyday how lucky I am. A great read!