Candid memoir of a woman trapped in the sex-slave trade, who is now
an activist against it."You shouldn't try and discover the past,"
Mam recalls her adoptive father telling her. "You shouldn't hurt
yourself." Born in 1970 or 1971 and torn from her ethnic Phnong
family during Cambodia's genocidal civil war, Mam suffered as a
child in a Khmer village whose people saw her as "fatherless,
black, and ugly," possibly even a cannibal. Her pederast
grandfather sold her virginity to a Chinese merchant to whom he
owed money, a prize in a culture where raping a virgin was believed
to cure AIDS. He then sold her to a soldier who "beat me often,
sometimes with the butt of his rifle on my back and sometimes with
his hands." From there it was a short path to what Mam calls
"ordinary prostitution," working for a madam who was quick to hit
and slow to feed. In time, after a series of indignities that she
recounts in painful detail, Mam extricated herself to live with a
French humanitarian-aid worker. Married, she moved with him to
France, where she discovered that "French people could be racist,
just like the Khmers." Burdened with an unpleasant mother-in-law,
she welcomed the chance to return to Cambodia, working in a Doctors
Without Borders clinic and turning her home into a kind of halfway
house for abused, drug-addicted and ill prostitutes, most of whom
were very young. Mam recounts her battles against government
officials, pimps, brothel keepers and other foes in a campaign that
brought death threats against her, but that slowly gathered force
as it gained funding from UNICEF and several European governments.
That campaign is ongoing, and Mam concludes that there's plenty
left to do, since Cambodia is "in a state of chaos where the only
rule is every man for himself."An urgent, though depressing,
document, worthy of a place alongside Ishmael Beah's A Long Way
Gone, Rigoberto Menchu's autobiography and other accounts of
overcoming Third World hardship. (Kirkus Reviews)
Somaly Mam was abandoned as a baby and looked after by her
grandmother until she disappeared. She was then taken into the care
of a man she called 'grandfather', but was treated no better than
an unpaid servant. sold. Raped at twelve, Somaly was forced to
marry at fifteen and then sold to a brothel. She endured years of
abuse before managing to escape. The Road of Lost Innocence is a
moving account of a traumatic childhood and also the inspirational
story of a determined and courageous woman devoted to helping other
girls caught up in the illegal sex trade and violent underworld in
Cambodia. In 1997 Somaly Mam co-founded AFESIP to combat
trafficking in women and children for sexual slavery.
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