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Diving Deep, Going Far: Stories of the Women Leaders Forming Cambodia's Future

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Diving Deep, Going Far is a collection of stories of young women in Cambodia who go against their society’s conservative expectations and follow their own dreams instead. Based on interviews with over 25 young Cambodian women, Diving Deep, Going Far pictures the lives of four main characters, each of whom are a composite of multiple real women. The book follows Nary, the m Diving Deep, Going Far is a collection of stories of young women in Cambodia who go against their society’s conservative expectations and follow their own dreams instead. Based on interviews with over 25 young Cambodian women, Diving Deep, Going Far pictures the lives of four main characters, each of whom are a composite of multiple real women. The book follows Nary, the main character, from her youth in rural Sihanouk province, to her family’s move to the capital Phnom Penh, to her career as a human rights leader, and finally her struggle with finding a man who can support her in her ambitions. Interlaced with Nary’s story, Diving Deep, Going Far provides a glimpse into the lives of three other young women: Nika, who loses her parents at 13 years old and faces the decision to leave school and start working to support her little brother; Soklin, who leaves her family and her rural village to become the first person from her village to go to university; and Ratana, a radio DJ who advocates for women’s freedom to make their own decisions, especially about their love lives. Diving Deep, Going Far was written by Menno de Block, a Dutch native who has been living in Cambodia for nearly four years, in close cooperation with Kunthea Chan, a Cambodian human- and women’s rights activist.


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Diving Deep, Going Far is a collection of stories of young women in Cambodia who go against their society’s conservative expectations and follow their own dreams instead. Based on interviews with over 25 young Cambodian women, Diving Deep, Going Far pictures the lives of four main characters, each of whom are a composite of multiple real women. The book follows Nary, the m Diving Deep, Going Far is a collection of stories of young women in Cambodia who go against their society’s conservative expectations and follow their own dreams instead. Based on interviews with over 25 young Cambodian women, Diving Deep, Going Far pictures the lives of four main characters, each of whom are a composite of multiple real women. The book follows Nary, the main character, from her youth in rural Sihanouk province, to her family’s move to the capital Phnom Penh, to her career as a human rights leader, and finally her struggle with finding a man who can support her in her ambitions. Interlaced with Nary’s story, Diving Deep, Going Far provides a glimpse into the lives of three other young women: Nika, who loses her parents at 13 years old and faces the decision to leave school and start working to support her little brother; Soklin, who leaves her family and her rural village to become the first person from her village to go to university; and Ratana, a radio DJ who advocates for women’s freedom to make their own decisions, especially about their love lives. Diving Deep, Going Far was written by Menno de Block, a Dutch native who has been living in Cambodia for nearly four years, in close cooperation with Kunthea Chan, a Cambodian human- and women’s rights activist.

30 review for Diving Deep, Going Far: Stories of the Women Leaders Forming Cambodia's Future

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sokcheng

    New books about women empowerment, like books about Khmer Rouge automatically fill my heart with a reluctant respect. On the one hand, I'm becoming more fed up with the same stories paraded in different guises whether in women struggle or life under KR. When YOU ARE the minority, when you HAVE SEEN the consequences, there's only so much of the repeated tales you can stomach. But I was happily surprised by this book. Yes, the first few chapters fell into my stereotype (an expat-oriented book abou New books about women empowerment, like books about Khmer Rouge automatically fill my heart with a reluctant respect. On the one hand, I'm becoming more fed up with the same stories paraded in different guises whether in women struggle or life under KR. When YOU ARE the minority, when you HAVE SEEN the consequences, there's only so much of the repeated tales you can stomach. But I was happily surprised by this book. Yes, the first few chapters fell into my stereotype (an expat-oriented book about the women struggle), but the remaining of the book proved itself as unique (a not-so-expat-oriented book about women struggle and success!), just like how its characters proved themselves to be capable of fighting stereotypes. Language-wise, this cannot be hailed as the next literary genius for the words were simple and narration straightforward even though some passages DID fly straight to my heart and opened my tear reserve. However, to judge this book for what it aims not to be is a waste. Plot-wise, this was a moving narrative (or say narratives) of Khmer women fighting for their equal rights in many different forms. I appreciate the author giving us long breaks in the narratives, especially when the suffering seemed immense. My fed-up self was happily spared some of the details of the struggle. In their place, I was empowered by success stories brought about through determination, support and love. It was also a good touch that other supporting characters came in the form of family, bosses, male friends and other females. This shows just how important the ecosystem is to the women empowerment movement, that it's not a strictly female issue. Regarding this point, my LGBT ass cannot be but slightly disappointed that none of the characters seemed to be at least a bit on the gay side. When it comes to LGBT portrayal in media, I hold the view that authors are free to include or exclude minority characters as they see fit. So this is not a major criticism towards the author, though it stands to show that the lack of LGBT representatives, and our inclusion into the fight for gender equality is still an issue that needs attention in this country. All in all, a good short read that did not fail to empower a young Cambodian woman like me. Thanks to the 25 women listed at the end of the book, we have progressed in our march. Thanks to this book, more people (yes women and men) will join our march onward.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tom Zacharski

    The title of the book says it all. It is based of an old Khmer proverb - "a woman cannot dive deep and cannot go far". In a Cambodian society with proverbs like that the book recalls the stories of young female leaders. While the country can be described as underdeveloped, very conservative, and paternalistic I found many parallels in people's thinking to many countries that could be classified as the first world. The stories make for strong cases of feminism and a fight for equality in a very co The title of the book says it all. It is based of an old Khmer proverb - "a woman cannot dive deep and cannot go far". In a Cambodian society with proverbs like that the book recalls the stories of young female leaders. While the country can be described as underdeveloped, very conservative, and paternalistic I found many parallels in people's thinking to many countries that could be classified as the first world. The stories make for strong cases of feminism and a fight for equality in a very conservative environment. They showcase leaders who fight this good fight and have to navigate a tricky landscape, oftentimes consisting of objections from their close relatives. The book also makes a very strong case for the power of education and what it takes to leave a small village, leave a simple life, and eventually live a life worth living. It doesn't take much to draw parallels between Cambodia and any other country. It is necessary to note that the stories are based on the lives of many female leaders (twenty five of them) and the book is a genre called "reality novel" - overall a great read that inspired me to think more about societal problems. Big shoutout to the author who has lived in Cambodia for a few years and managed to create the connections that allowed him to write such candid stories.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mediocre Reader Harper

    Lovely and easy to digest read for people willing to seek an understanding of the collective challenges faced by Cambodian women. It felt raw and relatable at times, and at others, it felt so real that I almost feel nostalgic. I'm sure the women reading this book would take away a feeling of not being alone in their questioning of their culture or how things work against them sometimes. For outsiders, they'd get a glimpse into the lives of women under the ridiculous standards of Cambodian societ Lovely and easy to digest read for people willing to seek an understanding of the collective challenges faced by Cambodian women. It felt raw and relatable at times, and at others, it felt so real that I almost feel nostalgic. I'm sure the women reading this book would take away a feeling of not being alone in their questioning of their culture or how things work against them sometimes. For outsiders, they'd get a glimpse into the lives of women under the ridiculous standards of Cambodian society, and so reaches a deeper understanding and may be humbled by this read. However, at one point, I wish there were more distinct characters as I sometimes find it hard to separate the women from each other. All in all, a highly recommended read!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    I had the opportunity to meet Menno while i was backpacking around Cambodia while he was going through the process of finishing the book. Culture and history we're two of the main things that attracted me with visiting Cambodia and this book doesn't disappoint. The stories although fiction based on truth are startlingly real feeling and bring with them strong messages of what the traditional reality is like but what hope for the future there is. This book is based on the lives of young females f I had the opportunity to meet Menno while i was backpacking around Cambodia while he was going through the process of finishing the book. Culture and history we're two of the main things that attracted me with visiting Cambodia and this book doesn't disappoint. The stories although fiction based on truth are startlingly real feeling and bring with them strong messages of what the traditional reality is like but what hope for the future there is. This book is based on the lives of young females from Cambodia but in my opinion this good relates to anyone in the entire world who suffers discrimination or hardship just because they're a woman. It was a pleasure to spend those great days with you in Kampot, Cambodia Menno and the best of luck with this outstanding project moving forward.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Munyoudoum Pav

    AN INSPIRING BOOK OF DETERMINATION, COURAGE, EQUALITY, AND HOPE. I guess as a male obviously can’t relate much to the book; however, what I’m getting out from the book is that we, human being, make our happiness, decision, and success depend on people’s judgment. Their doubts, comments, and gossips were all about people’s stereotypes, opinions, and never about our performance. By doubting and fearing people’s reactions to our willingness and decisions, we constantly judge our own perspective, and AN INSPIRING BOOK OF DETERMINATION, COURAGE, EQUALITY, AND HOPE. I guess as a male obviously can’t relate much to the book; however, what I’m getting out from the book is that we, human being, make our happiness, decision, and success depend on people’s judgment. Their doubts, comments, and gossips were all about people’s stereotypes, opinions, and never about our performance. By doubting and fearing people’s reactions to our willingness and decisions, we constantly judge our own perspective, and deliberately do what they believe is right which makes us live in an unchanging lifestyles. Ask yourself, “What would I change about my life if nobody judged me?”

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Tattersall

    A fictional book based up the real stories of Cambodian women, mainly from the provinces who have tried to work for equality and equal rights. Very interesting on the strength of traditional attitudes about the behaviour and roles expected of women and the difficulties faced by those seeking a more modern life. This should be read by all barangs in the country.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Miriam Grundig

    This book brings the personal struggles of females in Cambodia closer to the reader with good stories instead of cold numbers and a warm heart instead of wagging fingers at all things wrong. It’s really insightful by also being entertaining to read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julie Rylie

    The title of the book comes from an old Khmer proverb that says "a woman cannot dive deep or go far". And what this book wants to prove is exactly the opposite: that women should be given the change to a better future; to advanced education and to live their lives flourishing through their own merits and capacities and not in the shadow of men. This book tells the fictional story (though based in real people) of women that decided to defy the pre conceptions of their strict patriarchal society i The title of the book comes from an old Khmer proverb that says "a woman cannot dive deep or go far". And what this book wants to prove is exactly the opposite: that women should be given the change to a better future; to advanced education and to live their lives flourishing through their own merits and capacities and not in the shadow of men. This book tells the fictional story (though based in real people) of women that decided to defy the pre conceptions of their strict patriarchal society in order to help women all over Cambodia to have access to other realities/ possibilities that might suit what they are looking for in life. Very inspiring. "Change always starts with people on the front lines, people who challenge what others think is normal, through their actions and their ideas".

  9. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Harry

    I was impressed by how in tuned Menno is with Cambodian girls; enough to write four separate stories in first person perspective. I was a bit wary going into this. I didn't know what to expect but reading this, I felt like I was seeing things from their eyes. Although I was born and grew up in Cambodia, I did not grow up in the same upbringing as them. I grew up in a more privileged family, and yet, I do understand the struggle that they have to deal with in terms of social and cultural oppressi I was impressed by how in tuned Menno is with Cambodian girls; enough to write four separate stories in first person perspective. I was a bit wary going into this. I didn't know what to expect but reading this, I felt like I was seeing things from their eyes. Although I was born and grew up in Cambodia, I did not grow up in the same upbringing as them. I grew up in a more privileged family, and yet, I do understand the struggle that they have to deal with in terms of social and cultural oppression. As a feminist, I am really happy that this book was written. We don't have many books that offer insights into Cambodian women's lives. It's rather empowering. One problem that I have with this book is the voices of the 4 characters. There's not much distinction going on. At one point, I was kind of confused whose story we are following because they all sound so similar. I just wish they would have more quirks that we could use to identify them. That's the challenge with writing from 4 different perspectives. It's hard to make them all unique enough to know instantly from whose eyes we're seeing the world. But overall, nice book. I liked it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Travelalong2

    Wow wow wow!!! what an inspirational book. I read it in one sitting.... all of it, right to the acknowledgement page (which I usually skip). My only problem is why is this written by a Dutch Guy? He did a very very good job - make no mistake, but I was a bit disappointed when I discovered, in the acknowledgements, that it was written by a man. I'm so inspired by this book I want to pack my bags and return to Cambodia to cheer on the women that are changing their own culture and country. This book Wow wow wow!!! what an inspirational book. I read it in one sitting.... all of it, right to the acknowledgement page (which I usually skip). My only problem is why is this written by a Dutch Guy? He did a very very good job - make no mistake, but I was a bit disappointed when I discovered, in the acknowledgements, that it was written by a man. I'm so inspired by this book I want to pack my bags and return to Cambodia to cheer on the women that are changing their own culture and country. This book is not just about and for Cabodian women. This book will inspire any women who feels stuck in a rut; or who wonders should I / could I take this risk; what will the people say if I do .... Girls, go read this book, let it inspire you and you will soar.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Yayane

    Super inspiring! A great read for anyone, even better for anyone who can relate somehow to Cambodia or want to learn more about this country and how it is evolving nowadays specially from the point of view of real life inspired young and goal oriented women characters. Very uplifting and encouraging stories!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Skylar Meegan

    Brilliant, Inspiring, Empowering. A must read for everyone! What a stunning book that shines light on the injustices Khmer women face on a daily basis, yet also speaks encouragement and truth over them ❤️

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jim Irvine

    A powerful book about different women and the challenges they face in modern Cambodia. I would highly recommend this book, it is told from a perspective that is too often not listened to.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Deep overview on the local cultures and life of Cambodians

  15. 4 out of 5

    AL

  16. 5 out of 5

    Martina

  17. 4 out of 5

    Engmey Chea gp

  18. 4 out of 5

    Yasmine Genena

  19. 5 out of 5

    Senleaphea Mam

  20. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  21. 4 out of 5

    Itishree

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sokly Ing

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

  24. 4 out of 5

    Daisy

  25. 4 out of 5

    Allison Moffitt

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Wang

  27. 5 out of 5

    Emma Farrell

  28. 5 out of 5

    Niobe Shaw

  29. 4 out of 5

    Soriya THEANG

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hunter Tolbert

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