Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. For the next decade she was shuttled through the brothels that make up the sprawling sex trade of Southeast Asia. Trapped in this dangerous and desperate world, she suffered the brutality and horrors of human trafficking—rape, torture, deprivation—until she managed to escape with the help of a French aid worker. Emboldened by her newfound freedom, education, and security, Somaly blossomed, but remained haunted by the girls in the brothels she left behind. Synopsis via Good Reads
Author: Somaly Mam is an author from Cambodia as well as, a human rights advocate who focuses on sex trafficking.
Final Thoughts: The book speaks of horrific ordeals sex trafficked persons and prostitutes face in South Asia, specifically, Cambodia. Mam illustrates every aspect of forced prostitution in Cambodia and the effects it has on the victim, their family and community, and the nation. I love how she adds touches of “normalcy” when she talks about her “father” the man you gave her the name Somaly Mam as well as, her husband Pierre (I wasn’t a fan sometimes because he seemed egotistical and had this weird “white savior complex) and her daughter. Putting that aside and the accusations of her story being fake as well as, abuse happening inside her facility. This book makes you think about the after effects of war, no matter how long it has been or side you‘re on, innocent citizens seem to bear the brunt of it all. Before the Khumar and After the regime paint two different pictures and she talks about how people become desensitized to it all and how parents and relatives sold their own children into brothels and how people looked down on prostitutes in the morning but came to them at night. The hypocrisy of it all was not lost to me. I love how she adds touches of history and how there’s this interconnection between Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam–all countries who suffered and bared the brunt of super powers back in the late 40’s and even now. This doesn’t excuse what the people of the government are doing but you can see how War and power struggles opened a vacuum that seems to be filled with inhumane treatment and forced prostitution. Though the book was eye-opening and tragic; I often felt as if two individuals were writing this book and were at war with each other. One that wanted to paint a pretty picture but also wanted you to see a tragedy happening somewhere; knowing that you would be sad for a moment and move on with your life because you could donate and not get involved. The second felt like a survivor(s) speaking up about a tragedy that they feel would remain buried forever and that the cycle of abuse would continue if someone doesn’t speak out. I was difficult at times reading not only because of the content the how horrific so many of the victims suffered but also because I couldn’t understand the direction the author was going or how they wanted the audience to feel.
I felt as if I was a part of Somaly’s experience (sometimes) and the book is a subject that I’ve been interested in for as long as I can remember. And putting the controversy aside, the book is great and I’d recommend it to someone who wants to understand issues faced by victims of sex trafficked–I liked how Mam explained how no two cases are the same and you shouldn’t judge sex workers by the perceptions the world throws at you or them as well as, how you shouldn’t assume someone’s reason for being a sex worker. I rate it a 7 out 10 because the back and forth writing was confusing and sometimes I couldn’t understand the direction of the book.
Check out the Book in Review: The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam
Also, if you want to know more about the controversy you can watch Al Jazeera’s 101 East – Truth or Lies: Somaly Mam below