Picks and Pans Review: The Road of Lost Innocence

updated 10/13/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/13/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Somaly Mam

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

People PICK


"You'd better know what this is," a fellow prostitute tells Mam after dolling her up with thick white makeup. "It's a brothel. Do what they say, or they'll hit you." Born in Cambodia just before Pol Pot's regime, Mam was sold into sexual slavery at 15. For six years she was raped and tortured; brothel guards dumped maggots in her mouth and hooked battery electrodes to her skin.

Mam, 38—who bought freedom with money from a generous client and founded the antiprostitution group Acting for Women in Distressing Situations in '96—considers herself lucky: "Now I see girls ... with nails hammered into their skulls." Based in Cambodia, where up to one-third of prostitutes are under 18, AFESIP has rescued more than 4,400 victims, giving them shelter and vocational training. "People ask me how I can bear to keep doing what I do," writes Mam in this inspiring memoir. "I'll tell you: It's the evil that's been done to me."

From Our Partners