Somaly Mam, Book Review Example

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Book Review

1.Somaly Mam recalls in the early part of her book that she has had more than one name throughout her life, as names seem to change as quickly as one’s life changes within the Cambodian culture (Mam 1). She recalls the name Ya, “Little One,” Aya, Viriya, and then finally, Somaly, which she preferred and kept as her permanent name (Mam 1). This name means “The Necklace of Flowers in the Virgin Forest,” which was a positive and meaningful interpretation to Somaly at the time (Mam 1). She also recognized that this name was a true representation of her own existence and reality during this period of time (Mam 1). Somaly’s childhood had been particularly difficult and challenging on many levels; therefore, she sought to express herself by adopting a name given by her uncle that was not only appropriate, but had great meaning in light of her personal struggles (Mam 1).

Somaly’s second name Mam was derived from her experiences with Mam Khon, a poor yet influential schoolteacher in the village where she resided (Mam 16). Mam Khon’s wife, Pen Navy, was also influential and provided Somaly with food and enabled her to contribute by assisting with the cooking for the family (Mam 16). Mam Khon was particularly helpful to Somaly during her struggles because he recognized her as a person with feelings, with a family history, and who was more significant than what others led her to believe (Mam 17). In this context, Mam Khon convinced Somaly to attend the village school and to consider herself as a worthy member of society (Mam 17). Within this family unit, Somaly felt as if she belonged, which was a stark contrast from the village experience because this was very negative and condescending on many levels (Mam 18). During this period of her life, Somaly began to experience a greater sense of belonging and commitment to a family that treated her with greater respect than others in her past (Mam 18). Therefore, she began to develop a strong bond with Mam Khon and the gifts that he gave her in the form of education, encouragement, and perhaps some degree of love (Mam 18). This was an important and meaningful experience for Somaly that she remembers today and continues to recall fondly because it gave her an opportunity to feel worthy and not useless as she was made to feel within the village community (Mam 18). Somaly faced other challenges during this period, and Mam Khon was available to provide him with a greater sense of discovery and strength that she would take throughout her life (Mam 18). It was important to recognize these challenges and for Somaly to take the steps that were necessary to achieve much greater goals in her life than she was originally expected to have, and to fight for her rights as a woman and as a human being.

2.Somaly learned at a very young age and particularly during puberty that her adoptive grandfather was up to no good. During this period and as she began to experience changes within her body, her grandfather took notice and began to touch her breasts on a regular basis, which was extremely uncomfortable for Somaly and was also somewhat frightening (Mam 23). In response to these actions, Somaly attempted to avoid her grandfather as much as possible due to this extreme level of discomfort and would try to be either at school or at her father’s home for most of the day (Mam 23). After a particularly frightening experience involving a rape by a village merchant, Somaly was subjected to a beating by her grandfather after she returned home late (Mam 24). At this time, Somaly suspected that her grandfather knew what was going to happen and sent her to the merchant on purpose so that she could be assaulted, which was particularly traumatic and difficult for Somaly to accept and to understand (Mam 23).

Somaly’s experiences with her grandfather grew even more traumatic and demonstrated his sheer hatred for his adopted granddaughter. She continued to struggle with the rape and discovered that it was used as a way to pay off a debt to the merchant (Mam 25). That day forever changed Somaly and created a level of hatred for her grandfather that she did not understand as a child, but understands very well as an adult (Mam 25). However, Somaly continued to see her grandfather because she was fearful of the consequences and did not want to bring any drama into her father’s home (Mam 26). She faced continuous struggles with these events and found it difficult to cope, but she had no choice because she knew she would be a survivor (Mam 26).

When Somaly was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather, there was no going back, and she struggled with the experiences that she was forced to endure (Mam 62). She was abused for many years and found it difficult on many levels, but she was a survivor and wanted to overcome the abuse and to make a life for herself (Mam 62). It was only after she had heard of the death of her adoptive grandfather that she began to experience any real sense of freedom because now she had nobody to hold these experiences over her head and to make her feel worthless (Mam 62). However, she could not escape her circumstances entirely and immediately because she had no training, no skills, no education, and no future outside of sex slavery, and it was only when she met a Frenchman that she was able to move forward with her life and to escape slavery forever (Mam 62). These experiences are relevant because they demonstrate the importance of different perspectives as related to Somaly’s life and the traumatic experiences that her grandfather put her through time and time again. It is important to recognize these challenges as a driving force in enabling Somaly to survive and eventually escape from these conditions and to move forward with her life to make a difference.

Works Cited

Mam, Somaly. The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine. Spiegel & Grau: 2009. Print.

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