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The Road of Lost Innocence: The Story of a Cambodian Heroine (Random House Reader's Circle) Paperback – July 28, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Random House Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (July 28, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385526229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385526227
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (177 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

I finished reading this book in 3 days, I couldnt put it down.
To hear the journey that this incredible woman has made in life, has come from and helped others is just unreal and so inspiring.
When you are done you will want to get up and make a change in the world too.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Christina Lockstein on September 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam is a heart-breaking story of a woman's fight out of slavery and her quest to save others from suffering as she did. Somaly was raised in the forests of Cambodia in a primitive tribe without electricity or running water. Living in the remote jungles, her parents abandoned her and left her with a grandmother who then died before Somaly could remember any of them. She raised herself until the age of eleven, sleeping in a hammock, fishing for some meals, and receiving some little care from the rest of the villagers. At eleven, a man claiming to be her grandfather took her to a larger city and used her as slave labor, beating her and forcing her to work for others as well. She learned how to read at a small school run by a man who claimed to be her uncle and tried to do his weak best by her. At fifteen, her grandfather sold her into a violent marriage with a soldier, until he disappeared, and the grandfather appeared again to sell her into a brothel in Phnom Phen. There Somaly was raped and beaten until all of her will was driven out of her, and the fight to survive overcame the desire to be free. Eventually a French aid worker came to her aid, and Somaly was able to break free of this devastating life. But Somaly is more than the average women. She was unwilling to let other women suffer as she did, so she began distributing condoms to the brothels, and then opened a home to take in girls who fled their life of forced prostitution. She has faced threats, including the kidnapping of one of her daughters, but has emerged unwilling to bend again. Her story is amazing and awful, not something that is easily considered. It's much easier to skim over the details and refuse to internalize them.Read more ›
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Ann Olswang on September 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Wow. I want to say there are no words to describe what this book will make you feel, but I'm going to try anyway.
Somaly Mam is the kind of person we all hope we could be, were we faced with the horrors she has lived. Sexual slavery, rape, abuse - she survived all these and has been brave enough to share her story with us. She recounts her experiences in a raw, unflinching tone, experiences which could break the strongest of us. And although Somaly escaped her own dark path, she has never left that world behind, but instead returns time and again to rescue other girls trapped in brothels, girls sometimes as young as four or five, girls who have been sold into sexual slavery.
Her story is amazing, the world she describes is horrifying, and in the end if you have not been moved to tears, then you are not human.
But this book is not just intended as a voyeuristic window into a world we should condemn. It is a necessary education for those of us who are lucky enough to live in a world where sexual slavery is a remote problem. And if, like me, you finish the book and find yourself enraged at what is being done, then you might do what I did and google her name, and find her foundation's website: [...] There is something we can all do to help, and after reading this book you just might need to.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Patee333 on October 16, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is not getting enough notice. People need to read this book!!! There should be hundreds of reviews for it, but there's only a total of 24 including reviews for the hardcover as well. Someone needs to market the hell out of this book like RIGHT NOW!!! I have recommended it to all my friends and co-workers, in hopes to just get people to know about the horrors that are happening in Cambodia, and all over the world. This book was an eye-opener into a world that I was completely ignorant about. It's despicable that people exist to have brutal sex with poor innocent young children. Somaly Mam's book details the horrors in graphic detail and really makes you think! THINK!!! Here I am sitting and browsing online book reviews while a dozen innocent young girls are being brutally raped every minute in some filthy brothel in Cambodia or other countries. Is this what the world is coming to? The sex slave trafficking industry is one of the top three earning billions of dollars illegally....yet somehow, all governments are turning a blind eye to it. People like Somaly are trying to their best to help but the situation is just so daunting and out of control, I really don't know if it can ever be stopped or fixed. That's the horrible truth behind it. Young girls as young as 4-years-old are sold into brothels and savagely gang raped over and over again by men who are demons from hell. Pimps torture the poor girls to make them submit and to kill their spirit. People in the US need to seriously sit down and THINK. Quit complaining about what you don't have and how we suffer because of a bad economy. We have it 1000 times better than 99% of the world, yet we want more and we whine and complain. Americans need to educate themselves and not turn a blind eye to the horrors around the world. Ignorance is NOT bliss!!!
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Format: Paperback
A few weeks ago a friend came across this book when they were delayed at an airport. After reading it they sent me an email about a book that made them so angry, that they had figured out what they wanted to do to change a little bit of this world.

A week later an Amazon box arrived at my doorstep with the book inside.

I opened it, read it in a day, and was devastated.

This book is powerful. A story of Somaly Mam, a young girl who was sold at an early age into prostitution in Cambodia... it is the raw truth of her experiences she had, watching her friend being shot in the head, to being covered with maggots to instill fear inside of her, to forcefully being thrown into rooms filled with men to 'do her duty'.

Each encounter was a vivid painful memory. Her story of how she came to start an organization to help these women is inspiring and phenomenal. It makes you want to go out and help her, and others in the world who are suffering from this tragedy.

A quote from the book that touched me is the following:
"I strongly believe that love is the answer and that it can mend even the deepest unseen wounds. Love can heal, love can console, love can strengthen, and yes, love can make change." -- Somaly Mam

I highly recommend the read. It will change a piece of you forever.
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