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The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine

4.22  ·  Rating Details ·  6,357 Ratings  ·  861 Reviews
A riveting and beautiful memoir of tragedy and hope–by a woman named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world

Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. For the next decade she was shuttled through the brothels that make up the sprawling sex trade o
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 28th 2009 by Spiegel & Grau (first published 2005)
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Zoran Zeković Yes, it is likely that she wasn't a sex trafficking victim. She does not seem to be honest. However, she didn't live a normal life. Cambodia was…moreYes, it is likely that she wasn't a sex trafficking victim. She does not seem to be honest. However, she didn't live a normal life. Cambodia was carpet-bombed by the Americans 45 years ago. I don't believe that it was possible for any Cambodian citizen to live a normal life during that period of Nixon's terror.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Petra X
Sad Update but first an admission. I'm a sucker, I'm easily taken in. I'm a bookseller but I still judge books (and people) by their covers. With this book, the cover was attractive and the story the author had to tell of sexual slavery from an early age to winning Glamour magazine's Woman of the Year award (2006) was uplifting and compelling and I really thought it was something special to recommend.

Now today, I read that the book was indeed a story. Fiction. How much of it was true and how muc
Trupti Dorge
Nov 11, 2015 Trupti Dorge rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, favorites
This was one of the most difficult books I have ever read. We all know that prostitution and human trafficking is million dollar business that seems to continue to grow over the years. But most of us probably don’t know the extent of this problem and how it affects lives of young girls. All over the world and especially in underdeveloped/ developing countries, this is a problem that is quickly getting out of hands.

The Road of Lost Innocence is a story from Cambodia. Ms. Somaly had a very horrifi
Apr 09, 2013 Book'd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Every individual who has the ability to read
This aching life story by Somaly Mam (I will respectfully prefer to address this woman as Mam now on) starts with this note:

By far the lowest statistic for the number of prostitutes and sex slaves in Cambodia is between 40,000 and 50,000. It can be expected that at least 1 in 40 girls born in Cambodia will be sold into sex slavery.

–2005 report by Future Group,
a Canadian nongovernmental organization

I am speechless after finishing this book, neither able to handle the emotions nor able to get up f
Oct 17, 2008 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As stated in this book by the Cambodian ex-sex slave, Somaly Mam, "the prostitution business is worth $500 million a year, almost as much as the annual budget of the government." Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, etc., are countries where the sex trade is booming (and has been for decades). Young girls, sometimes as young as 5, are sold by their parents, grandparents, or caregivers to brothels and then are used as a type of credit. They work in horrible conditions, worse than one can ever imagi ...more
Shambhawi P.
This book is honest, brutally, painfully honest and that is really why it can make a difference. With every page I felt Somaly Mam's struggle with the prostitution that was a big part of her past and how the very same past has propelled her forward. I feel lucky, extremely lucky, because I know had I lived the life she has I would have been completely broken and not able to stand up for righteousness like she has. She is a true hero.

In many ways the story of the little Cambodian girls sold by t
I picked this book up after seeing Somaly Mam in the PBS film based on Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. I wanted to know how she was able to grow from former trafficking victim to a head of a foundation, and this book does answer that question.

I honestly do not know if I could keep the faith in humanity that Mam apparently has. I agree with Ali. Mam should win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Update Mam should not win the Peace Prize because apparently much of this boo
Mar 28, 2011 Ryna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ayaan Hirsi Ali said it right, this memoir is unputdownable! I read a couple pages, got interrupted, but when I picked it up again I could not stop reading. Somaly Mam's beautifully raw prose transfixed me. It held me even when my heart raged with anger as I read about the inhumanities she suffered, or even as I felt goose bumps as I imagined the torture girls like herself went through. At some point, keeping the tears back just seemed pointless.

Despite the horrors described in her book, this i
Nov 18, 2008 Lataun rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Not the faint of heart...
Recommended to Lataun by: People Magazine
I wasn't sure how to put into words what I thought of this book, so I stole some other reviews that best described what I was thinking...

Also not sure what to rate it. I guess I'll go with 5 stars, not because I loved it or anything but the 5 stars equates to "it was amazing". And the author is amazing! I'm also going to donate money to her cause. Pen told me I need to read some happy books :)

"Not an uplifting story and lots of very depressing realizations about the reality of the sex slave trad
Aug 12, 2013 Asha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Asha by: Book'd
Saying that I had nightmares for weeks after reading this book would be a bleak understatement! It is not hard to imagine things happening to you, when you learn what women your age, and many mostly younger than you are enduring in one part of the world or most parts of the world, for that matter.

For once, I hated my friend here to have me read this book. At one point, I broke down and that was more often. I read it in one sitting only to see how much torture and agony life can bestow on one bei
Sara Alruwaitea
Oct 19, 2013 Sara Alruwaitea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Razan Al-Araj
This is a story about a real Hero from a 3rd world country.
Somaly Mam is a living example of how we all should never hold back into the past in order to go through the present.

Her biography told how life is tough in Cambodia. How she got through since she was born in the 70's until today. She was forced to live the life of a slave and a prostitute but she was lucky and strong enough to save herself, that is when she tried and fought as hard as she could to heal her soul and find her inner peace.
May 18, 2013 Charu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was recommended this book by a friend (Hitesh). I did not know what to expect out of this book, when I first heard of it. The issue of prostitution in a country like India prevails since an era when kings had t heir reign, but prostitution existed out of the royal hedonist desires. I assume it was different then. It wasn’t enforced or violent.

Talking about this book, it is a memoir of a brave Cambodian lady, Somaly Mam, who was forced into Sex slavery, while she was a young girl. For a long t
Shh I'm reading!
Feb 01, 2012 Shh I'm reading! rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somaly was sold into sexual slavery when she was 12 years old. Although this is her memoir, she stresses this is not just her story. This is the story of many young girls, some of whom Somaly highlights in her recounting of her personal life and the development of the Acting for Women in Distressing Situations.

Somaly Mam's story is a fantastic one for 2 reasons. One is that it highlights the depravity of human trafficking and how little we value those don't have the resources to protect themselv
Jan 12, 2015 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
***Update*** It turns out that Somaly made up a lot of this account. I had given the book five stars (for content only, not superior writing), but I'm reassessing at three. It's still an enlightening account of why sex trafficking is so prevalent in Asian countries.

In "The Road to Lost Innocence," Somaly Mam takes us on her journey from orphan to sex slave to liberator and humanitarian..
At a time in my life, the 80s,
(2016 update): In the interest of transparency I am leaving my original review and rating encased in amber for all to see. As it turns out, Newsweek exposed this tale as largely fabricated. To my credit, in my original review below, I did express some skepticism, but accepted the story due to widespread corroboration by others of the practices described in this book. Know, however, that I'm not pleased about being sold a bill of goods, even with overall good intentions afoot, and this is at leas ...more
Maya Khan
Feb 06, 2013 Maya Khan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I usually avoid memoirs for thisexact reason.. I get lost in it and go to a deep dark place and fail to see any possible good this world may have. This is one such book which portrays all the evil the world has to offer. However I tell myself that I'd be I denial if I don't face the facts and acknowledge that the balance is tipping toward evil as time goes by.

I felt ashamed mostly while reading about Somaly's problems. I whine about the lack of the quality of life in here but there millions of
Mar 18, 2009 Tahleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a tough book to read. I cried a lot while I read this; it is heartbreaking to read about the atrocities that are happening right now in human trafficking. Somaly Mam's memoir recounts her past as a girl sold into prostitution and how she managed to slowly climb out of the pit she was unceremoniously dropped into. Though the story she tells is one of violence and inhumanity, it is also one of hope; she managed to do truly wonderful and amazing things for young girls (as young as 4) who were/ ...more
Oct 11, 2009 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

the suffering that is enduring by so many in their short lives is astonishing. as is the capacity in human beings for violence and cruelty, as well as the capacity to struggle for what is good and right.

there is so much that needs to be done about human trafficking, sex trade, slavery, rape, prostitution.

so much.

what is so compelling about this book is that it is a first hand account of someone who suffered her entire life, found a way out, and then committed herself to save others with her
Julia Graf
Jan 21, 2014 Julia Graf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Absolutely brutal, sobering, but also hopeful look into the Cambodian child sex slave industry. Any man who is thinking of traveling to South East Asia to enjoy cheap prostitution should be forced to read this. Unfortunately they are probably the last ones to do so. Moreover it describes how prevalent it is for local Asian man to seek out young girl prostitutes, and how terribly these are abused, sold over and over again to cruel pimps and madams. It was sickening to read sometimes, but amazing ...more
Jul 29, 2009 e.c.h.a rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to e.c.h.a by: Mbak Olin
Membaca ini membuat gw membuka mata..bahwa masalah trafficking benar-benar pelik. Gw sering mendengar soal trafficking yang menjadikan anak-anak terutama gadis di bawah umur sebagai "barang" yang dilemparkan ke rumah bordil dan dipaksa untuk melakukan prostitusi. Dan, orang-orang terdekatlah yang menjual mereka. Saat di rumah bordil pun, mereka tidak punya arti. Mengalami segala macam sex abuse, bahkan penyiksaan secara mental.

Pengarang buku ini Somaly Mam, adalah salah satu korban dari traffic
I read this book for my senior exit project. My topic was about forced prostitution. This topic really stood out to me because we are all about equality for all, yet women and young girls are being forced into having sex with strangers for money that they never receive.
Somaly Mam wrote this book about her life and everything she went through. I think she's such a strong women due to all she's been through and being able to write about it and raise awareness. She was sold into prostitution by he
Jan 03, 2011 Arlene rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 M ...more
Jan 05, 2010 Uci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tercekat. Satu kata yang pas untuk menggambarkan perasaan saya saat membaca buku ini. Kisah perdagangan manusia memang sudah sering kita dengar, namun saat dituturkan langsung oleh si korban, sering kali kita akan menggeleng tak percaya, menyimak kekejaman tak terperi yang harus dia tanggung. Saya sampai harus meletakkan buku ini beberapa kali untuk menghela napas.

Somaly Mam (nama yang dia pilih, pemberian bapak angkat baik hati, karena dia tak pernah tahu nama aslinya), hidup sendiri di antara
Sabrina Rutter
This is an incredible book about one of the worlds most amazing people!
As far as I know it is the only book out there that is a personal account of life in the sex trafficking industry.
Although she doesn't mention it in the book you can see that from the start of her life God was preparing her for a great calling. I was amazed by this womans inner strength. She is the voice for the silenced victims of sexual exploitation.
The book is easy to read and though the topic is not a pleasant one once y
Sep 24, 2009 Daniel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Describes the author's experience being sold into prostitution in Cambodia, and how she ultimately escaped and formed an organization to rescue others in the same plight.

The book is very readable and is written in a spare, matter-of-fact prose. My only hesitation in recommending it is that it is so tragic, disturbing, and graphic. However, the book is not a "downer" -- the author has been able to find some purpose and meaning in her life by helping others.
Abeer mohammed
Oct 21, 2015 Abeer mohammed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
قصه واقعيه تتحدث عن حال المرأة المؤلم في كمبوديا بشكل عام وفي الدول الفقيرة بشرق آسيا بشكل خاص .. تتكلم عن سيرة امرأه تدعى "صومالي مام" واجهت التحديات التي تواجه المرأه خصوصا مسألة الدعارة وكيف قامت بتأسيس جمعيات لمساعدة الفتيات الصغيرات من وكر الدعارة
Tara Garcia
Jan 23, 2011 Tara Garcia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
her story is devastatingly powerful. my stomach tightened so many times as well as my heart. cannot imagine what more she could have done...if anything or anyone was on her side...
May 24, 2014 Philipc rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cambodia
The Road of Lost Innocence is "a riveting and beautiful memoir of tragedy and hope," says the publisher's blurb.

Except all the evidence suggests it's not a memoir.

"Road" was published as the life-story of Cambodian anti-trafficking campaigner Somaly Mam. Kirkus review gives this summary of the story it tells:

"Born in 1970 or 1971 and torn from her ethnic Phnong family [the Phnong are a minority people on the Cambodian/Vietnamese border] during Cambodia’s genocidal civil war, Mam suffered as a ch
Apr 10, 2014 Raiona rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Raiona by: my friend
The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam is a book about the adversities a little girl faces until adulthood and how she overcame them. The memoir about Somaly Mam goes into detail about her life and other's around her who were sold into sex slavery. The author, Somaly Mam, suffered horrific acts of brutality. Her past haunted her after she was free, therefore, she decided to help other women and children escape from sex slavery. Somaly Mam became an activist in the fight against human trafficki ...more
Nia Vestal
Apr 04, 2012 Nia Vestal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a disturbing and remarkable account of the sex trade industry in Cambodia... however, more the human side of this issue is all too evident. I put down this book several times and picked it up again, only to allow myself to digest the information and to prohibit myself from vomiting. It is sad that we live in a world where human beings treat each other as Mam has indicated in her book. It is ugly, harsh in in no way does she hold back. The sex trade is ugly and savage. Most books on ...more
Oct 16, 2008 Veena rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: favorites
The book-cover was beautiful. On the cover page Somaly sat there, thinking, looking towards her future maybe. As the fortune-teller told her -

' the black one - she will have the three flags' - power, honour and money. 'She will travel in plane andshe will be a leader in the family'. She will help you.'

This is the first memoir I have read. I don't know, why I chose it. Maybe I wanted an author from another part of the world for my Orbis Terrarum CHallenge! But I never thought, it will this diffe
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Somaly Mam is a Cambodian author and human rights advocate who focuses primarily on sex trafficking.
More about Somaly Mam...

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“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.” 216 likes
“Sometimes you can learn, even from a bad experience. By coping you become stronger. The pain does not go away, but it becomes manageable.” 110 likes
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