Author: Patricia McCormick
Genre: YA realistic fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Challenges: Women Unbound, POC, YA
FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library
Summary (from the back of the book): In Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small village in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all the family's crops, Laksmi's stepfather says she must take a job to support her family.
He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to help, Lakshmi journeys to India only to learn the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into slavery. An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning. She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family's debt--then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave. Gradually, Lakshmi forms friendships that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Then the day comes when she must make a decision--will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life?
Review: I read this book in one day, need I say more? I guess I do, 'cause here I go...
I really liked the two other McCormick books that I've read (Cut and Purple Heart) and figured I would like this one too. My assistant and one of my student assistants read it and kept telling me I should as well. I finally took it off the shelf and it was the perfect book!
Sold is eloquent, sensitive, poignant, sad, uplifting, and informational all at once. McCormick divided this book up into short chapters (some as short as a paragraph, some a few pages long), which made me feel like I was really hearing the story from a 13-year old's perspective.
The beginning is set in Lakshmi's small mountain village in Nepal where she lives with her mother, stepfather, and baby brother. While they are poor and have almost nothing--their big dream is a tin roof--the reader understands that she is happy. She is smart, getting an education, and has a mother that loves her very much. My western sensibilities want to smack the stepfather and, sometimes, the mother, but I realize that my way of living isn't what's "right", it's just what I know.
The very poor must make decisions that I know I will never be faced with and that is why child slavery and the child sex trade do so well. The very poor are deceived into thinking that their children will have a better life if they go "to the city". However, the reader knows that Lakshmi is not headed to the city to be a maid and to send home money for the family. We can see she is being led further and further away from the home that she knows and loves into a life of prostitution with no way out. The debt incurred by child prostitutes and slaves is one that can never be repaid since they are "charged" for everything (food, shelter, aspirin, the make up they are forced to wear). Their families never see them again. These are children!
McCormick's story shows the slow but inevitable change in Lakshmi that takes place when someone is in an unimaginable situation. How can 12 and 13 year olds endure prostitution? But they do. They do because if they don't they are whipped, starved, and worse. They do because they have no other choice. The men that pay them for their "services" (and the women who run the brothels) however, are despicable. I can't even write about how that makes me feel because it will unleash too much.
Luckily, in real life, there are NGOs and governmental organizations who work tirelessly to help children in slavery to escape and try to return them to their families. These groups are fighting an uphill battle, but they push on, one child at a time.