Year of the Rabbit

Drawn & Quarterly. Jan. 2020. 380p. ISBN 9781770463769. pap. $29.95. MEMOIR
DEBUT Veasna depicts his family’s years of suffering under the Khmer Rouge in this harrowing story, based on firsthand accounts by survivors. As the Khmer Republic falls in April 1975, the citizens of Phnom Penh hardly have time to consider the possibility of a peaceful future before the victorious Khmer Rouge order a mass evacuation. Veasna focuses on doctor Khim, his wife, Lina (who gives birth to their firstborn son immediately after evacuating Phnom Penh), and members of their extended families as they travel across Cambodia. Caught trying to sneak through a checkpoint, Khim’s family is sent to a reeducation camp, where they spend several years forced to perform backbreaking work in squalid conditions. Repeated images of speakers blaring the party line—an end to corruption and inequality, the glorious beginning of a new society—as workers toil near starvation, terrified that any infraction or implied criticism of the regime might lead to their execution, emphasize the disorientation and dread that permeate their lives. They also make even more astonishing several scenes in which people take incredible risks to help one another.
VERDICT A powerful portrayal of one of the most sorrowful events of the 20th century.

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