In The Stones Cry Out, Szymusiak describes a very difficult time in her life. Her purpose, though unstated, seems to be to provide a firsthand account of a reign of terror. The epigram at the beginning of the narrative is taken from the Gospel of Luke: “If my disciples were silenced, the stones themselves would cry out.” Szymusiak may see herself as one of the stones—speaking for those who can no longer speak.
Szymusiak makes an effort to be objective without seeming dispassionate or cold. She describes all the events in detail, often taking great pains to make sure that the reader completely understands the conditions under which she and her family existed. While Szymusiak could be regarded by the reader as a hero, she does not portray herself as such. In fact, she often praises those around her for their endurance and ability to survive in conditions that can only be described as horrifying. The author relates her own sense of fear and often conveys her wish to die rather than to see any more of the torture that was endured by those around her.
The historical information contained in the book is relatively accurate, although readers should realize that any autobiography is colored by the author’s views of the time in question. Szymusiak’s accounts of intellectuals being taken out and summarily executed have been corroborated by other sources. In fact, the author may have toned down her experiences. When reading the history...
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Szymusiak’s autobiography has probably had quite an impact on the genre of juvenile war literature. She discusses a period in Southeast Asian history that was riddled with conflict and civil war. In some ways, the book resembles other books that have been published on both the Vietnam War and the Cambodian civil war, but it adds a new dimension: The story is told by a Cambodian youth. Readers of The Stones Cry Out will gain a new perspective of the time in question because of Szymusiak’s unique viewpoint. Rather than seeing the takeover by the Khmer Rouge from the point of view of a military or government official, the reader will see the conflict from the point of view of one of the innocent victims. Consequently, the reader can relate to the narrator more easily.
Szymusiak’s motivation can best be described as informational, as she wants her story and that of her family and friends to be told and remembered. The impact of The Stones Cry Out cannot be underestimated. The stark, realistic details that Szymusiak provides are moving. In addition to providing a firsthand account of a terrifying situation, Szymusiak presents a portrait of human courage.