Short Hair Detention: Memoir of a Thirteen-Year-Old Girl Surviving the Cambodian Genocide
Short Hair Detention is a true story recounting the intimate details of a thirteen-year-old Cambodian girl and her journey through the devastating years of the Cambodian genocide (1975 -1979). It progresses from the first six months of starvation to the agonizing moments when the Khmer Rouge separated her from her parents and how she learned to survive year-round unforgiving conditions. Throughout the journey, she experienced constant reminders to keep faith in God and to not lose hope that her family would somehow be able to survive.
Incredibly, the story describes undeniable moments of giggling with her starving teenage girlfriends, even under the direst circumstances. Those friendships, along with numerous kind-hearted people on the journey helped her to keep sane with small strands of hope to cling to. The story also reveals the animal instinct within that takes over the conscious mind, the self-inflicted emotional pain that weakened her, and the love that she had for her mother that gave her strength. It was this mother-daughter love that motivated her to look past her own misery and strive to survive for her mother.
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 9.25 out of 10
Concept/Idea: Laux's powerful memoir centers on her experience as a teenage girl living through the brutal events of the Cambodian genocide, during which she and her family were forced to relocate, and were then separated by the Khmer Rouge.
Prose: Laux's prose is straightforward, quietly descriptive, and somewhat youthful in tone. The author recounts devastating circumstances with a degree of emotional distance, though readers will not struggle to grasp the disorienting and traumatic nature of the events as they unfold.
Originality: The author provides a first-hand, highly personal account of an ugly chapter in Cambodian history that will be unfamiliar to a great many readers.
Execution: This important, edifying story sees Laux's growth from a child unaware of tumult to unfold, to a girl in the grips of a horrific circumstance. Despite candid descriptions of suffering, hunger, violence, and family separation, Laux also recounts playful moments and relationships forged through shared trauma.
Date Submitted: January 26, 2020