Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sold by Patricia McCormick

Sold is on many librarian's shortlists for the Printz Award for this year, and with good reason. This powerful novel is the story of a young girl from Nepal, unknowingly sold into prostitution by her step-father. Taken hundreds of miles from her home, forced to work in a brothel, and cheated of her earnings by the madam, Lakshmi's life is bleak, and she has little hope of escape. Her earnings will never be enough to pay her debt to the madam, and the chances of her contracting a disease and being tossed into the streets is very real.

Sold, Lakshmi's story, is told in short vignettes, providing brief glimpses of the poverty of Lakshmi's mountain village, the love of her mother, and the bleak reality of life in the brothel. This style often leaves me wanting more of the story - more details, more development - but I think it is best for Lakshmi's story, since details would be almost too much to bear.

According to Patricia McCormick's notes, over 12,000 Nepali girls are sold into prostitution each year. While Lakshmi's story is fiction, it is based in the reality of many young girls.

SPOILER: Don't read past this point if you don't want to know about the end of the book!

The main flaw in the book, that I can see, is that Lakshmi is saved by Americans - Westerners. This sort of "Americans to the rescue!" ideal is troubling, since it may lead readers to see all Indian and Nepali people as uncaring and even evil, ignoring the plight of these young women, and Americans as the rescuers who always do the right thing. This might be misleading to a teen who is not familiar with these cultures, and whose multicultural reading is limited. It would have been gratifying to see Lakshmi's escape made possible by a member of her own culture.

What I'm Reading: This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn by Aidan Chambers