Sunday, May 15, 2011
The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam
Somaly Mam lost her parents at a young age in a village deep in the Cambodian forest. Somaly means: the necklace of flowers lost in the virgin forest. Having no idea of what her name was or her age, the little girl grew up in war torn Cambodia as an ethnic minority. Because of her darker skin, she was taunted and reviled by people. Her grandmother wandered away from the village, never to return.
At the age of five, Somaly is left totally at the mercy of her wits. She eats where she can among families in the village and supplements her slim pickings with nuts, berries, ants and grasshoppers that she finds in the surrounding woods.
When she was about nine, a man claims to be her grandfather and takes her away. He treats her as an indentured servant and forces her to do his cooking and cleaning, and backbreaking work for other families in the village- hauling water and working in the rice fields to earn money to support him. The grandfather sells her virginity to a store owner who brutally rapes her. Later when she is twelve, the old man sells her into sexual slavery in order to pay off his debts.
Her life turns into a hellish nightmare as she is shuttled through the brothels that make up the sprawling sex trade of Southeast Asia. For the next decade, she suffers horrendous rapes and unspeakable acts of brutality, and witnesses horrors that would haunt her for the rest of her life. When her closest friend is murdered in front of her, she finds a way to do the impossible and escapes her captors.
When Cambodia opens up to tourism, aid workers from Europe and the U.S. arrive in big numbers. Somaly, now in her early twenties, meets wealthier patrons who are able to provide her with some stepping stones out of sexual slavery.
Unable to forget the girls she left behind, Somaly becomes a tenacious and brave leader in the fight against human trafficking. Using the little money available to her she founds AFESIP (Acting for Women in Distressing Circumstances) and dedicates her life to rescuing sex slaves–some as young as five and six–offering them shelter, rehabilitation, healing, and love and leading them into new life.
Somaly sees herself in each of the girls she encounters and while she can’t forget her pain or what she endured, she wants the girls to not feel ashamed of themselves and she teaches them how to make better lives for themselves.
Written in exquisite, spare, unflinching prose, The Road of Lost Innocence is a memoir that will leave you awestruck by the courage and strength of this extraordinary woman and will renew your faith in the power of an individual to bring about change.
Somaly Mam is now a renowned leader at the forefront of the anti-trafficking struggle. Universally recognized as a visionary for her courage, dignity, ingenuity, and resilience, Somaly was honored as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2009 and was featured as a CNN Hero. She is also the recipient of the Prince of Austria’s Award for International Cooperation, The World’s Children’s Prize for the Rights of the Child (WCPRC), Glamour Magazine’s 2006 Woman of the Year Award, and has won accolades from the US Department of Homeland Security.
Susan Sarandon: "Please give unselfishly to this vital cause and take great pleasure in knowing that there is no more important mission that helping the victims forge a new life."
Every mother or grandmother, every reader or writer, every woman with a good heart can make a difference. Read the book and follow your heart.