Friday, August 26, 2011
Sold, written by Patricia McCormick. Hyperion, Hachette. 2006. $19.99 ages 14 and up
"I have been beaten here,
violated a hundred times
and a hundred times more.
I have been starved
How inconceivable is it to imagine being sold for a motorcycle, or a few hundred rupees? When Lakshmi's stepfather needs money to shore up a stake for his gambling, he sells her to a woman who promises further payment and a good job in the city for the thirteen year old. It is Lakshmi's dream to go to the city and earn enough money to buy her family a tin roof so that they will no longer have to worry about the coming rains.
Her mother is grateful to have a man in her life, following the death of her husband.The family is treated with little concern for their welfare by this new man. He takes everything they have to gamble at night. He does not worry that there is no food to sustain them, or rice in the field. Still, her mother is compliant and offers advice to Lakshmi for her future with a husband:
"If your husband asks you to wash his feet, you must do as he says, then put a bit of the water in your mouth."
When he sells her, he has little sympathy for the mother or daughter, showing how little value women have for him. We do not know if he willingly sells her into child prostitution, but that is the outcome. As she leaves her beloved mother and brother behind, she makes this observation:
"What I Carry
Inside the bundle Ama packed for me are:
the notebook my teacher gave me for being the number one
girl in school,
and my bedroll.
Inside my head I carry:
my baby goat,
my baby brother,
my ama's face,
our family's future.
My bundle is light.
My burden is heavy."
What she has experiences at home at the hands of her stepfather can, in no way, prepare Lakshmi for the life she leads as a sex slave. She is appalled when she learns her fate and refuses to be with the men who come to Mumtaz' house. To make her compliant, she is starved, drugged, raped, and humiliated. Yet, she also finds kindness within the walls of her prison. Always, she is hopeful for a time when she will no longer be indentured to Mumtaz, and will find freedom again.
Patti McCormick did her homework, travelling to Nepal villages and the red-light district of Calcutta to learn about the many young women working in these brothels and some who have been rescued. That personal research is clearly evident in her deft handling of the story she tells. She shines a light on these brave, and honorable young girls. The story is sensitively told in unforgettable first person descriptions that take place over the course of a year. Although it is intensely difficult to read of the horror that she must endure, Lakshmi is a young woman to be admired for her tenacity and strength of character.