NEVER FALL DOWN By National Book Award Finalist Patricia McCormick
From National Book Award finalist and highly acclaimed author Patricia McCormick (Sold) comes NEVER FALL DOWN,a novel based on the real life of Arn Chorn-Pond—a man who survived unspeakable horrors in the labor camps of the Khmer Rouge as a boy, escaped as a soldier, and was later adopted and brought to the United States.
To write the book, McCormick traveled to Cambodia with Arn, saw the camps where he was held, met people from his childhood, and interviewed him for hundreds of hours. In the end, she decided to write this novel in his beautiful imperfect English, since as Patty says in her author’s note, trying to channel Arn’s voice was like trying to “bottle a lightning bug.” This is a story of brutality, but ultimately it’s an inspiring story of how the arts can save a life, and how the resilience of the human spirit can shine even in the darkest of times.
When soldiers arrive in his hometown in Cambodia, Arn is just a kid, dancing to rock ‘n’ roll, hustling for spare change, and selling ice cream with his brother. But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, his life is changed forever. Arn is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp: working in the rice paddies under a blazing sun, he sees the other children, weak from hunger, malaria, or sheer exhaustion, dying before his eyes. He sees prisoners marched to a nearby mango grove, never to return. And he learns to be invisible to the sadistic Khmer Rouge who can give or take away life on a whim.
One day, the soldiers ask if any of the kids can play an instrument. Arn’s never played a note in his life, but he volunteers. In order to survive, he must quickly master the strange revolutionary songs the soldiers demand—and steal food to keep the other kids alive. This decision will save his life—but it will pull him into the very center of what we know today as the Killing Fields And just as the country is about to be liberated from the Khmer Rouge, Arn is handed a gun and forced to become a soldier. He lives by the simple credo: “Over and over I tell myself one thing: Never fall down.”
Patricia McCormick has crafted an achingly raw and powerful story based on the life of Arn Chorn-Pond, a child of war who ultimately becomes a man of peace.
Arn Chorn-Pond has dedicated his life to humanitarian causes around the world, especially to young people in need. He founded Children of War, an organization that aids children held hostage by war and violence. He is the founder of Cambodian Living Arts, a group that helps preserve the traditional arts of Cambodia by pairing young students with the few master musicians who survived the Khmer Rouge. He also started Cambodia Volunteers for Community Development, which provides education and computer and job skills to children, farmers, land-mine victims, former prostitutes and others. He has been the recipient of the Reebok Human Rights Award, the Amnesty International Human Rights Award, and the Spirit of Anne Frank Outstanding Citizen Award. Arn lives in Cambodia and spends part of the year speaking in the United States.
again tackles a horrifying subject with grace while unsentimentally
portraying the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge and Cambodia’s killing
fields…While never shying from the ugliness and brutality of this
genocide, McCormick crafts a powerful tribute to the human spirit.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
is not an easy book to read, as it unveils the truth about one of the
most hideous examples of inhumanity in the twentieth or any other
century. McCormick has done a remarkable job of creating an authentic
first-person voice for Arn and using it to lay bare his almost
unimaginable experiences of horror. The resulting book is powerfully,
hauntingly unforgettable.”—Booklist, Starred Review
“Once again, McCormick has delivered a heartrending exposé of human
tragedy. The natural syntax and grammar of Arn’s narration imbues his
story with a stunning simplicity and clarity against a backdrop of
political chaos, terror, and death. This compelling story will awaken
compassion and activism in secondary readers.”—School Library Journal, Starred Review
“Following the pattern of excellence McCormick began with her novel Sold,
she has created another amazing story through skilled and patient
research…Gathering bits of stories from Arn and several other sources,
this carefully woven work of fiction could not be more real.”—VOYA, Starred Review
of the most inspiring and powerful books I've ever read. NEVER FALL
DOWN can teach us all about finding the courage to speak our truth and
change the world.”—Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Date Recorded: 6/5/2012
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