From Publishers Weekly
The horror and violence perpetrated on young girls to feed the sex trade industry in southeast Asia is personalized in this graphic story. Of mixed race, Khmer and Phnong, Mam is living on her own in the forest in northern Cambodia around 1980 when a 55-year-old stranger claims he will take her to her missing family. Grandfather beats and abuses the nine-year-old Mam and sells her virginity to a Chinese merchant to cover a gambling debt. She is subsequently sold into a brothel in Phnom Penh, and the daily suffering and humiliation she endures is almost impossible to imagine or absorb (I was dead. I had no affection for anyone). She recounts recalcitrant girls being tortured and killed, and police collusion and government involvement in the sex trade; she manages to break the cycle only when she discovers the advantages of ferengi
(foreign) clients and eventually marries a Frenchman. She comes back to Cambodia from France, now unafraid, and with her husband, Pierre; sets up a charity, AFESIP, action for women in distressing circumstances; and fearlessly devotes herself to helping prostitutes and exploited children. The statistics are shocking: one in every 40 Cambodian girls (some as young as five) will be sold into sex slavery. Mam brings to the fore the AIDS crisis, the belief that sex with a virgin will cure the disease and the Khmer tradition of women's obedience and servitude. This moving, disturbing tale is not one of redemption but a cry for justice and support for women's plight everywhere. (Sept.)
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Sold into slavery as a young girl—first as an indentured servant to a surly, violent older man, then, at 16, to a brothel—Mam could have lived a life of misery and defeat. Instead, she found freedom and security while keeping her remarkable spirit intact. This unflinching, searing memoir tells Mam’s story, from her early childhood as an orphan in the mountains of Cambodia to her current role as cofounder and president of the AFESIP (Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances) and the Somaly Mam foundations, which have rescued more than 3,400 women and children throughout Southeast Asia. Mam’s voice is humble, matter-of-fact, and wrenchingly real. Her passionate refusal to let other girls suffer as she did spurs her to action. She began by gathering money to help distribute birth control as a precaution against AIDS, then moved on to rescue young women and girls, taking them into a shelter and teaching them employable skills—all against extraordinary odds. The story of Mam, nearly a twenty-first-century Mother Teresa, both inspires and calls to action. --Emily Cook