In 1975 after the fall of Phnom Penh, Princess Soma Norodom and her family fled Cambodia to the United States where she would spend the next 35 years. In 2010 she returned to Cambodia to help take care of her sick father for the remainder of his life. While back in the country she wasted no time, and soon found herself in the spotlight after establishing the first English-speaking radio talk show in the Kingdom of Cambodia. Her controversial projects with the Phnom Penh Post Columns in October 29, 2012 put the Princess in a fight alone for freedom of expression. Princess Soma is now back in the United States where she is working on other projects such as the launch of her book Royal Rebel
The Fresno State Cambodian Student Association hosted Princess Soma’s first book signing event on October 21, 2016 at the Smittcamp Alumni House. She is an alumni of the Fresno State Department of Mass Media, Communication and Journalism. In her own books, Princess Soma spoke about the experience writing her book.
Vanna: What inspired you to write your first book?
Soma: The inspiration of Royal Rebel came when I left Cambodia in February 2014. I went back to the U.S. to California because my mother needed me to help take care of her after her surgery. I thought it was going to be temporary, but I ended staying until now. I later found out that it was a soul-searching experience for me, as I was burned out (overworked, over-exposed in Cambodia), and I needed time for myself, and to mourn (my father’s death) in private. The book was my medicine to heal.
Vanna: What was the hardest part about writing your book?
Soma: The hardest part was going back to several traumatic events which happened when I was in Cambodia. Replaying the events in my head, and writing out the details for the book was very hard, especially when my father passed away. It always a good idea to keep a journal of the dates and events, which I did, and this helped me in writing my book. I didn’t expect to write it so soon, but luckily, I had the motivation to write. I had writer’s block for 2 years, and I can’t believe I finished the book.
Vanna: Is there a message in your book that you want readers to take away?
Soma: Without giving away the ending, the message of the book is to be true to yourself, despite the critics against you. You have to live with the decisions that you make, and deal with the consequences. I made a decision, which was against many people, especially my Royal Family, and I lived with the results. You stand up for what you believe. Looking back at this, I will still make the same decision.
Vanna: What projects are you currently working on?
Soma: Currently, I will be promoting my book in the U.S. The first event will be my first book launch at Fresno State University, my Alma Mater. I am so excited about it! I get to reunite with old friends, colleagues, and staff at the university, and also the community. I spent most of my life in Fresno, and I am proud to be a Bulldog! The university has been so supportive of me, and you can say I am a product of the valley because of my educational and life experiences in Fresno. My next stop will be in Atlanta for my second book launch. My Publicist is working on other cities in the U.S. to promote the book and do speaking engagements at universities relating to Southeast Asian Studies. Proceeds from book sale will go to my foundation and other charity organizations I support.
The book launch party on October 21, 2016 was a success event. The Princess, the Cambodian Student Association, and the United Khmer Culture Preservation (U.K.C.P) graced the Fresno State Smittcamp Alumni House with the Royal Blessing dance performed by the dancers of U.K.C.P. The historic event turned out to be more than just a book launch for many Fresno Cambodian community leaders, for many of them it was also seen as community event that bought a sense of cultural pride for the Cambodian-American community.