Thon Thavry’s fourth book, “Neary Propey” (“A Proper Woman”), addresses the oppression of women. This young author depicts the condition of Cambodian women from three generations in a story based on the experiences of her grandmother, her mother and herself.
Born on an island in Kandal province, Ms Thavry, 27, said the book is concerned with the reasons that society doesn’t value women and prevents them from chasing their dreams through education.
Ms Thavry said, “My grandmother and her generation were told that education isn’t for women, because in the end women have to become wives and serve their husbands. Hence it is unimportant to study. My mum suffered from those social norms handed down by her mother; she couldn’t follow her passion.”
In contrast, Ms Thavry said that from the time she was young, her family gave her the same encouragement that they gave her brothers, and made her feel she had the same right to chase her dreams.
“Society limits the paths that people can choose for themselves. But I tried to break all those social norms and do what I like. People always say that women shouldn’t be away from home, yet I have had adventures in many countries and studied abroad,” Ms Thavry said.
In 2009, Ms Thavry won a scholarship to study for a bachelor’s degree in Information Management in the Czech Republic. She said the scholarship was very competitive and that she was the only woman taking that major.
“Neary Propey”, her fourth book, has a special place in Ms Thavry’s heart because she had to do everything herself: writing, marketing, publishing and printing. Her previous books were written for other publishers.
Describing the challenges she faced while writing the book she said, “This was my first publication in English; this was the main challenge since it is not my native language. Therefore, I needed an editor. Also, I had to learn how to get an ISBN, and how to structure, publish and print the book.”
Ms Thavry knew that she wanted her book to be visually attractive. So she used her art skills, drawing illustrations and adding quotes in each chapter. To write the book, she researched the subject of women’s codes of conduct and interviewed elderly people from the same generation as her grandmother.
She said that the events in her story will be familiar to most women, as they happen in almost every family. She spent 10 months and 2 days on the English version and five months on the Khmer version.
“From the cover of the book, people always get the wrong idea that it aims to teach women how to act and behave well. But the main concept is to question the idea that women can be defined by others. Some people prefer to take more traditional women’s roles that conform to social norms [like staying home and cooking], while other women chase their dreams and do what they want to do,” Ms Thavry said.
She said she didn’t want this book to be seen as a feminist work; her main aim is simply to inspire people. If women are given the same chances as men, they could make their dreams happen no matter how big, as long as they don’t give up, she said.