Last year, young Cambodian author Neak Piseth published his autobiography in both English and Khmer, with some help from a foreign friend, who edited the book.
The book offers a glimpse of life in the countryside, and shows how the author struggled to improve his life, refusing to accept his fate as a cow herder and going on to complete a higher education.
The author discusses various subjects including rural life, violence, life as a young student who must also work, the differences between the lives of poor and rich students, and the duties of a scholarship student.
Recalling his rural childhood, he talks about how he and his sister sold cakes to support their family. The author also worked on a rubber plantation and tended cows.
“Just because you come from a poor family, your fate is not sealed. Overcoming such hardship can actually make your life more meaningful,” the author writes.
In each chapter Mr Piseth discusses some aspect of his life that can be used to understand larger issues about Cambodia.
The book shows just how hard it is for a boy aged seven from a destitute family to survive and study. This sort of financial obstacle is the main reason so many Cambodians cannot pursue an education beyond the early stages. Throughout the book, the young author portrays education as a powerful weapon that can be used to alleviate poverty and reduce violence.
He discusses violence in various forms, elucidating the legacy of of the civil war and its effects on the lives of Cambodians, as well as providing some sense of the way illiteracy leads to domestic violence.
Mr Piseth tries to use his own struggles as a vehicle for discussing people’s lives in general. The book is not just a list of the problems he faced, however; it discusses ideas and approaches that can give one motivation, both internal and external, to use as a stepping stone to become a leader.
This story captures the life experiences of a young man who demonstrates the power of belief and education in changing one’s fate and helping to achieve a better life.