Review on When the Broken Glass Floats by Chanrithy Him
Autobiographical readings are numerous and when such a reading tells about some particular events as the part of someone’s life it becomes obvious that such work is a treasure. Most of the events in the history of different countries are written under the impact of the political regime which exists at the moment of writing a history.
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It is obvious that the regime which is running the country at the moment is trying to present its vision of the events. Therefore, when such books as When the Broken Glass Floats appear, many historians are sure that such books are great sources and they have great historical value. The opportunity to look at the events from another side is valuable even though most of the facts are provided on the basis of the recollections of a child.
When the Broken Glass Floats by Chanrithy Him is an important source in understanding the events which happened under the ruling of the Khmer Rouge. The greatest value of the book should be explained via the opportunity to see the events which happened in the society through the perspective of the victim of those events.
The victim was a child, however, it does not give the right for critics to ignore the feelings and thoughts of this person. Being a child, the author managed to remember everything what happened. The book is a treasure which is to be saved. One of the greatest values of the book is its truthfulness and the desire to tell the world what was happening. Additionally, this is not just the retelling of the story f life, it is a lesson, a good history lesson.
Him starts writing from the poem, the one she composed herself and which tells the reasons why Him needed to compose this memoir.
When broken glass floats, a nation drowns,
Descending to the abyss. From mass graves in the once-gentle land,
Their blood seeps into mother earth. Their suffering spirits whisper to her,
“Why has this happened?”
Their voice resounds in the spirit world,
Shouts though the souls of survivors,
Determined to connect, begging the world:
Please remember us. Please speak for us. Please bring us justice. (Him 6)
Therefore, it may be concluded that Him felt that her story will help to remember the events which happened in Cambodia better. People are to remember such terrible events in order not to repeat the mistakes and not to make people suffer in the same was as while the Khmer Rouge regime.
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The story in the book starts with the times when everything was great and there was no any hazard. Chanrithy Him starts from the days when her parents were children, how their marriage was arrange, how her father fell in love with her mother and other details which are very important for the family in Cambodia.
Further, the description of life and family traditions is considered. This part is very important to understanding the Khmer Rouge regime as the description of the ordinary life of simple people helps top see the life of the whole society. Him’s family is taken as the example and it is possible to predict that the society in Cambodia was organized in the same way. This, one of the historical values discussed in the book is the description of life before political changes.
The background is important in understanding the reasons how and why the Khmer Rouge regime became possible in that society. The parts where Him refers to the customs and traditions of the society helps to see the full picture. Such parts are really important as they help use the book for generalization, but not as the personal writing about one family.
Explaining the phrase “the kang prawattasas, the wheel of history” Him states the following, “The wheel of time or change. The Khmer Rouge often used such terms to threaten us, to force us to follow their rules, their revolution. If we didn’t follow their rules, the wheel of history would run over us.
This could mean punishment or death.” (Him14) Such pieces are really important as they help consider the source as the valuable historical piece of writing.
Almost each of the chapters in the book contains the pieces of news from the contemporary of that time newspapers. Such pieces help the reader to see the situation how it was presented in the society, how it was highlighted by the journalists and how it was in reality as the further discussion continued from the first person and Him continued remembering what happened with her family.
One of the epigrams is taken from the New Internationalist with the purpose to describe a concept titled “Year Zero”, “Year Zero was the dawn of an age in which, in extremis, there would be no families, no sentiment, no expression of love or grief, no medicines, no hospitals, no schools, no books, no learning, no holidays, no music: only work and death” (Him 226).
This is the phrase which sums up the experience of Chanrithy Him under the reign on the Khmer Rouge regime. The book has a great value for the contemporary historians who have an opportunity to see the events of those time from different perspectives.
Him, Chanrithy. When Broken Glass Floats: Growing Up Under the Khmer Rouge. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001. Print.