The Cambodian Dancer: Sophany's Gift of Hope -- Multicultural Book Review

 Disclosure: Tuttle Publishing gave me a copy of this book free of charge for this review. All opinions in my review are my own and I did not receive any other compensation. They also sent me a copy to giveaway! As in all my reviews I am providing links for your ease, but receive no compensation. 

I wanted to share a multicultural book with you for Multicultural Monday!! The Cambodian Dancer: Sophany's Gift of Hope by Daryn Reicherter and illustrated by Christy Hale is based on a true story. It seems appropriate to be sharing it now with the posts I have seen comparing Cambodia in the 1970's to Syria today. This story is about the life of a woman who was a refugee from Cambodia.

 This beautiful story tells about how as a young girl, Sophany (Bay), learns the traditional Cambodian dance that has been passed down through generations. She becomes a very good dancer and draws large crowds to watch her dance and even dances for the Cambodian king. She also begins to teach young girls the dance and pass it on to a new generation. Just like it did for her the dance gives the girls energy and happiness. Then the Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia. Many are killed and arts, dance, religion are outlawed. The dancers who survive like Sophany become shadows of themselves. Sophany manages to escape to Thailand and eventually comes to the United States as a refugee. Even with her freedom she still feels like a shadow. She sees the Cambodian children growing up in the United States without the traditions and sees them as shadows. She begins to teach the traditional Cambodian dance in the United States and feels the energy and happiness of the dance again. 

There are so many topics to extend with this story. There is of course what happened in Cambodia at this time. I have several friends who escaped Cambodia during this time and like Sophany some lost family members. Another extension is the traditional Cambodian dance. (I found the above video on YouTube of a traditional Cambodian dance.) 
Dancers in Angkor 0945
Dancers in Angkor By Michael Gunther (Own work) 
[CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
For older children a discussion about what it feels like to be a refugee and have to leave everything you know would also go along with this book, as well as relating it to the situation in Syria. Another question for discussion is why did Sophany feel like a shadow without the dance. How would the reader feel with a favorite activity taken away? With all of these thoughts and comparisons one sees the importance of traditions and culture. As a melting pot the United States is often full of different cultures and has people who want to assimilate everyone to be more the same than different. I think it is important to celebrate our differences and learn from one another about the different cultures rather than all be the same. 

 I hope you will take the time to check out this beautiful book and story and use it to learn more about the Cambodian culture. I know we really enjoy it!!

For more Cambodian posts and books check out:  Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella and my Asian Pacific Island Heritage Month Book Round-Up