- A Memoir -
HIP HOP & HOPE
One woman's journey in the slums of Cambodia
“You may have seen this story before: the misfit from relative (white) comfort going out to see the world in order to discover the self. You won’t have seen it told with this much exacting detail, this much humility, and this much heart.
Rich with character, incident, and insight, with hip hop as its lingua franca, Hip Hop & Hope is a hugely compelling read. It made me laugh, cry, and dance (yes: me dance!) as I tore through its pages.”
–Tim Tomlinson is the author of the story collection This Is Not Happening to You, and the director of New York Writers Workshop.
*HIP HOP & HOPE will be available in 2024.
50% of proceeds will go to the centre.
HIP HOP & HOPE
One woman’s journey in the slums of Cambodia
When Romi Grossberg decided, at thirty-five, to give up her job as a social worker in Australia for a two-year contract working at Tiny Toones, a youth centre in the slums of Cambodia, she could never have imagined that the experience would change her life forever.
Equipped with her defiant nature, university degrees, volunteer experience in Asia and even a stint as a podium hip hop dancer in the 90s, her confidence was high. Until she landed in war-torn Phnom Penh.
When she turned up at Tiny Toones, she discovered a rundown, chaotic, stinking-hot centre crammed with street kids learning Khmer, math and computer, hygiene, health and HIV. And packed hip hop classes. The blasting music was loud enough to force evictions, but not-quite loud enough to scare the cockroaches and mice away.
Founded by Cambodian-American deportee KK, a tattooed ex-felon famous for his breakdancing skills and big heart, Tiny Toones attracted the underground youth of Phnom Penh – the gangsters, addicts, victims of violence, exploitation, prostitution and poverty.
KK spoke American gang slang, the kids spoke Khmer. Romi spoke English.
Gradually, as she won their trust, and they hers, Romi was invited into the heart of the street kids’ world, where only the dance floor can save you.
Hip Hop & Hope will make you laugh and cry as Romi shares with brutal honesty the highs and lows of life for the forgotten in Cambodia, and how her heart got broken and put together over and over by the slum’s most vulnerable and big-hearted kids.
Hip Hop & Hope is the story of trust and friendship, faith and belief in oneself even when the world is against you. Ultimately, it is the story of family. Romi, KK and their kids forge unbreakable bonds and eventually breakdance their way onto the TEDx stage, to performances in Singapore, Italy, New Zealand and sold-out performances to standing ovations in Australia.
“This memoir will take you on an adventure in Cambodia, focusing on the everyday lives of the kids on the streets. Romi speaks the Khmer language and uses it in her book; a very enlightening piece and important part of the Cambodian culture. “Hip Hop & Hope” is a must read for those believing in hope and making a difference in the world we live.”
-Princess Soma Norodom is the author of Royal Rebel, Royal Love, is a philanthropist, and the Princess of Cambodia.
TEDx Phnom Penh
Performance: ‘Dance Your Life Around’
Tiny Toones General Manager, Romi Grossberg. Featuring Tiny Toones founder KK and Tiny Toones staff and students.
TV Australia Network
‘Drama and Dance Turning Cambodian kids’ Lives Around.’
ABC The Australia Network interview by Kate Arnott with Romi Grossberg, MC ‘Beaver’, Bboy ‘Fresh’ and Cambodia’s first-ever female breakdancer, B-Girl ‘Diamond.’
'The Circle,' Channel 10
Host interview: Dylan Lewis
Dylan Lewis came to meet Cambodia’s ‘Tiny Toones’ hip hop group at rehearsal at Chapel off Chapel theatre in Melbourne in 2012. Dylan interviews Manager Romi Grossberg and founder and CEO ‘KK’.
Host interview: Danny Blay
Live audience interview by Danny Blay at the Melbourne Jewish Writers Festival in 2016. Part 1 focuses on her work in Cambodia. Part 2 focuses on her newly published book ‘The 5-Minute Guide to Emotional Intelligence.’
Samsonite Man: Breaking the cycle with Cambodia, Crips and Education. By Alex Dwyer, HIPHOPDX. USA
Healing through Hip Hop in the slums of Phnom Penh Cambodia, by Romi Grossberg, Rupkatha Journal. India
Street Smarts. by Maggie Chen, Young Post, South China Morning Post.
Tiny Toones Cambodia