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Khmer book review: A Proper Woman

Review by Say Tola / Khmer Times Share:

Young Cambodian author Thon Thavry has written and published a book in English and Khmer that depicts three generations of women to show the struggles women have endured over the years.

The first generation of womens’ are not able to go to school or do what they want. The culture and norms of society shaped attitudes, teaching them to serve their parents until they get married. This was the era of the “Women’s Code of Conduct”, in which the author’s grandmother was raised. Education was not seen as important for women.

Under the influence of that code, the grandmother tried to spread these attitudes to her daughter. The grandmother was afraid that if her daughter had too much knowledge, she would be able to write letters to her boyfriends. This was typical of that time.

The author’s mother struggled hard against these social norms. But she eventually had to give up because as a woman at that time she had to handle a lot of housework and society didn’t encourage women to study.

The young author also depicts her father’s life as a soldier in the Khmer Rouge regime. She discusses the tradition of weddings being arranged for couples who didn’t really know each other.

In the third generation, the author discusses her struggle to pursue her education. Her mum understood the value of education and encouraged the author to follow her own path. She depicts the hardship she faced from a young age.

Born on an island, the author did whatever she could to earn money to support her education. Although her family was poor, she strived to support herself and get an education. By depicting her own story, the author inspires women in every chapter.

At the end of story, the book tells us that if people have a dream, they can achieve it if they persevere. Although they are women, they can still can make it happen, as her story shows.

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