Monday, January 07, 2008

Sold by Patricia McCormick

This is one book that has stayed with me long after I finished reading it. I read Sold thinking it took place some time in the past...but as I read it I realized that this was told in present time...which blew me away! I've read about the issue of sex slavery but it truly became real to me while reading this book.

I love the style in which McCormick writes, the free verse and prose is beautiful, powerful and heartbreaking all at the same time. One of my favorite lines is: "I do not know a word / big enough to hold my sadness." Wow. I am so impressed with Lakshmi's resilience...when she says, "I know something else as well. I know that I would endure a hundred punishments to be free of this place." I wanted to stand up and cheer. On the other hand, I felt so very sad for those young girls who stayed and endured their lives.

My heart breaks for Lakshmi- to be so full of hope and excitement for her future and then to be broken down in such a horrible way- her step father invoked such anger in me! And to think, according to the author's notes, nearly 12,000 young girls are sold by their families into a life of slavery...in just Nepal alone! My only complaint about the book is that I would have loved another chapter, where does she go? How does she make out? Does she heal and move on? Go back to her village? I guess the mark of a good book is that it makes you feel and this book certainly did make me feel...it made me want to do something about this horrendous situation! I think Cathy Phelps is looking into the role Amnesty International could/does play in this situation. Perhaps she could explain??

Anxious to hear what you all thought.

19 comments:

Dawn said...

I really liked this book. Like Kathy, I thought it took place many years ago, and I was shocked as I continued reading and realized that it was happening now. Maybe I am naïve, but I like to try to think of the world as a better place than what was presented in the book. What drives a man to want to have sex with a child that is basically captured for the sole purpose of having sex with multiple men? It is disgusting. How did Lakshmi stay so positive throughout the book? She seemed focused on getting out of the “Happiness House” so that was probably her motivation, as well as her only hope for something good in the future.
One question I had early on was whether Lakshmi’s mother really knew where she was headed? How can a parent sell their child and know that where they are going is not a good place? How desperate for money can a family be to have to even think about selling a child? It is just such a different world in different locations, and as I mentioned before, I am very naïve in that aspect.
I do wish that there were more answers in the end. Does she attempt to get back to her family? What does she think of her step-dad after all of this? It does bother me that more can’t be done for girls in these situations. If the author could research this and find out so much information, then why can’t authorities step in to help fix this horrible problem?
I would recommend this book to many students. One reason for the recommendation is because many students think they have it so bad with having to wake up to get to school every morning, do homework and other miscellaneous things. I think this book could open their eyes and possibly help them see what they have in a different light.

Amanda said...

It also took me awhile to realize this book was set in modern times. It made me sick to read about how these children were sold into sex slavery. I don't understand how the numerous adults involved in this "business" could do such a thing. Do we assume the step dad knew what really was going to happen to Lakshmi?
The book ended so abruptly, I couldn't really feel the sense of relief when Lakshmi was rescued. I wish there was just one more chapter about what happened to her afterwards. Even though the abuse stops, I'm sure the emotional pain will never go away. It would be so difficult to move on and live a normal life after such an experience; I would be very interested to hear about Lakshmi's story after her "working" days.

Cathy said...

This is happening in all parts of the world. I do not believe that the mother knew what was happening. Often the parents are told that the children will be working at homes and getting an education. Unfortunately as we saw in the book once the truth is known, these girls are branded and considered outcasts in their villages. I can only think that youth and it resilience kept Lakshmi going keeping her hopes alive. Unfortunately, I do not think she would be welcomed home especially by her step father. It is hard to believe how women and girls are treated in some countries. I am looking forward to working with some of the Amnesty International students on this issue.
As far as you wondering how the men
could act in such a way, in many of these countries girls are married at age 14 and some times younger. Girls are not considered to be of use to the family except in arranging a good marriage. It is still a very male oriented society.
I would definitely have students read this book. I do not think anyone could read this book and not feel for these girls. I think anyone who reads this book would want to take action to help stop these practices. Economic development is the way to help. In India there are micro banks that are giving loans to women to start their own businesses. There are web sites where people can invest in these businesses. Heifer is a group that provides animals so that people can become self suffient.

Rebecca Kennedy said...

I enjoyed this book and thought it provided an interesting viewpoint. People especially teenagers get so caught up in their own lives and never think of the world around them. This book was humbling and I think it is a good perspective to share with our students.
It is hard to believe that things like this still happen in our "modern" world. It is crazy to think that there are families like Lakshmi's in the world living day to day while we take for granted things that they have never and may never experience.

I too was surprised by the abrupt ending of this book and although I dont like it when books end in such away I did not find it unsettling. I feel that Lakshmi was rescued and able to free herself of that life.(maybe that is just me being optimistic) although I do wonder if she was able to reunite with her family. It would be interesting if the author wrote a follow up book that showed what happened to Lakshmi after she was rescued.

Kim Seeley said...

I would love if there was a part 2 of this book since it did end abruptly. I LOVED the book. It was a real eye opener for me, very sad as well. I have recommended it to 3 adults and would also recommend it to some of my students. Would be a great book to use as a cross curricular lesson in English and Social Studies.

On a side note, does anyone feel like there is too much time between when we read the book and when we post? I read Sold SO LONG ago that it is hard to remember all of the details that I thought of. I know that I can just take notes, but I wanted to throw the idea out there of maybe blogging a little earlier...

Jim West said...

I must be honest that I was NOT looking forward to reading this book. Once I understood what it was about, my thought was, "how depressing!!!". Most of the books I tend to read are fiction, but not a fictional story based on true events. However, I forced myself to read the book with an open mind...I quickly realized what a great book it truly is, and had trouble putting it down until I was finished. I wanted to get to the end as quick as possible to find out if she really got free. So, for me, the style of writing and the storyline made the book a real page turner.

Regarding the fact that this book was based on events that truly occur now in today's world, I was disgusted and depressed about it. When presented with such autrocities in the world, I find myself disgusted to the core of my being, that these such things actually go on....people are experiencing these things right now as I sit here typing this in my own secure little world. How can people be so heartless, and cruel? I truly hope they burn in hell for the things that they do.

Initially I did not think that I would support using this book in a class with students, because of it's depressing nature. However, then I began to think about the youth of today, and how they, in many cases, do not appreciate what they have. They think they are so entitled! They have it so good, and they don't even realize it. When you tell them, they think they know better. Maybe this book would reach a few, and show them truly that in comparison to others in the world, they have it made.

My concern would be that for the type of student I teach, many of them would not even begin to understand the depth of such a tradegy. I honestly believe that some would even laugh at the situation presented in the book. I know this may sound terrible to you, but I have been amazed at the level of empathy many of these students possess. When we talk about violence, and tragic things, they truly laugh and think it is funny. Then they say, "Heck, why do I care...it's not me!!" I have a student that hangs out after school and purposely harrasses and picks fights with other kids, just for the fun of it. As bad as it may sound, I often hope that one day he will harrass someone who won't take it, and that person will put him in his place to teach him a lesson.

I do think the book is a great read, and I would recommend it.

Regarding Kim's comment, I agree that it seems that too much time goes by before we can blog. I finished the book probably a few days after I received it, and I do not remember many of the intricate details of the story. We might consider posting the original blog a little earlier. Just a thought...

Kathy J. said...

I think Rebecca summed up my feelings about this book very nicely- Humbling. That's exactly what I felt! Thanks for articulating it so succintly.

I was thinking over Jim's comments and thought that perhaps these kids should read this book. Maybe it's just what they need- a dose of the real world.

Also I was saddened to read what Jim wrote about the one student who bullies others after school. That such harassment is happening in our school angers me. I wish there was a way to get through to these kids. Maybe a book like this would help raise their level of empathy.

Regarding the dates...why don't I go through and adjusts the dates so that there isn't such a long time between blogs...I just didn't want anyone to feel pressure. I will adjust and email it you everyone and you can let me know what you think.

Cathy said...

Jim and Kathy I must as have the same students as Jim. I had the same experience when a student acted in an inappropriate manner and a student who the day before was mad about it happening to him. The next day when he was not the object he thought it was funny and he told me "It had nothing to do with me".
I have given my class real life experience situations Darfur with the woman jailed for the class naming the teddy bear Mohammed, the Lost boys, Iran, fundamentalist and treatment of wwomen,Afghanistan with the Taliban,India with my own foster child may not be able to continue school because he failed an exam, and all they see is it has nothing to do with me. This attitude is in both 9th and 10th grade. I am afraid if I used this book with them that the boys would see nothing wrong. Some of the girls I hate to think what they would think.

Pam L said...

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Pam L said...

I would consider reading this book with many of my students--as a whole class read or for lit circles. I'm glad the ending was hopeful but as I spent time thinking about why it ended so abruptly, I was not pleased with what I discovered. As some of you have pointed out, Lakshmi would not have been welcomed back into her village. Perhaps in her research, McCormick discovered that even Ama would have had to turn her away. Ama always seemed to give in to her plight in the end--what else could she do? I fear that Lakshmi did find freedom but my hope is that the same people who rescued her, helped her build a new life. But would she have insisted on returning to her mother and would that homecoming, or lack of one, have ruined her psychologically?
I think though that we need to learn about these situations and empower our students with knowledge. My own cousin was almost abducted in Puerto Rico years ago on her way home from a restaurant and it was only her knowledge of the "prostitution trade ring" in the area and her stubborn courage that saved her and her friend. A man jumped out of a limo with a gun, and ordered her and her friend into the limo. Her friend, terrified of the gun, started walking toward the limo. My cousin wrapped one arm around a lamp post and the other around her friend and started screaming. SHe decided in that split second she'd rather die than be sold into prostitution. The abductor left after a very brief struggle and never used his gun--it would have attracted attention. My cousin was very smart and street-wise (raised in the Bronx), fluent in Spanish, was able to read the newspapers and converse with the natives. This guy's MO was exactly what she'd read about. Now I'm not saying everyone is going to face a situation like that; however, awareness and empathy will empower some, save some, and move others to action for others. How else can some of our students, who may never leave Brockport, find out about all the beautiful and ugly happenings in the world? Literature is the way to go. I've had the same reaction to some pieces that Jim has experienced (I feel your pain, Jim)and it really bothers me but what's the alternative? Well, Lisa and I try to keep in mind the setting of the books--if it takes place in the states, will the students sit up and take notice more? But as educators, I think it's our responsibility to reach past our borders too! So we have to develop a really thick skin! I think we can't bombard them with sad stories all the time but real life is often sad and heck, look at what they're calling "reality" shows on TV--give me a break! There's little reality in them. No wonder so many of them are so self-absorbed!

We can also take a book like SOLD and draw the comparisons between our world and Lakshmi's--the different kinds of friendships she experienced--the street boy, Monica, Anita, Shahanna; her unconditional love for her mother--she never hesitated to forgive her for not being able to defend her; her resilient hopefulness--how many of us would have caved?

Literature shows us the beauty and strength of the human spirit--without that we are nothing. As for the weakness and ugliness, maybe our students see enough of that and it's easy entertainment. Perhaps it is our moral obligation as teachers to expose our students to the former, whether or not they are at a place in their lives to accept it.
Excellent read, Kath!
Pam

Rascalii said...

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Rascalii said...

There was certainly enough blame to go around in this true life story. It is a wonder that Lakshmi trusted the Americans at the end of the story. I was confused over the man who used her services , yet held her for a while afterwards. She wanted him to come back. He never returned, or did I miss something. Then, clearly the man who did not use her services was the one who ended up helping her to get out of "Happiness House". What happened to the other man? Did he just not come back, or does that show the guilt that some men may feel after engaging in such an immoral and illegal practice? It was also a bit confusing with so many people (not the "customers") coming and going especially at the end. Some even came back again. Perhaps the fact that that happened at the end showed that things were about to change and there was movement in another direction. Like many of you, I flipped the last page wanting to know if she got back to Nepal and her family.Excuse me for a moment while I go back and reread some of your comments............

Rascalii said...

Hi, I'm back....

Pam, what happened to your cousin is horrifying. I guess that we are so protected here that it is hard to imagine what goes on in other parts of the world, and if we do travel, we don't see it.I do have a question to ask. I am not sure which organization has the picture of the bird flying freely as their symbol. I would like to know more about this organization and how people can help. Cathy, I would love to talk to you...

Lisa said...

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Charlene said...

Wow!! Finally! I have had a terrible time getting into this blog. This was a remarkable book. It really shows us how fortunate we are to live in this country. It also shows the strength of the human spirit. Lakshmi lived by her mother's advise "simply to endure is to triumph". This would be a great book to read with our students. I liked the way that even though Lakshmi's family lived in desparate poverty, they still were able to have fun. Many of our students expect to have all kinds of expensive electronic devices and can barely get through a day without them. Lakshmi liked hopscotch. She enjoyed raising her goat and having her mother brush her hair. She found pleasure in very simple things. The thought of selling a 13 year old girl into prostitution is sickening. This book definitely increases the awareness of this practice in Nepali. I agree with the other readers who would like to know what happened next. What did the Americans do with these children after they rescued them? A sequel to this book would be helpful.

rebeccakryger said...

The beginning of this book reminded me somewhat of Memoirs of a Geisha. That a parent would send off their child without really knowing where they are going (in the case of Lakshmi's mother) is unbelieveable. I really liked this book, yet it put such a pit in my stomach. I guess that is what I expect from a good book, for part of it to stick with you and keep you thinking.
I did not think initially that I would like the vignette style of the novel; however, I kept enough of a chronology that I thought the short episodes really emphasized the emotional rollercoaster that Lakshmi constantly faced. I, like many others it seems, was surprised by how modern the story was. I was imagining it to have taken place in the early or mid 1900s until the reference to David Beckam. It is appalling that this sickening situation still occurs.
I was sucked in the the constant fear of not knowing who Lakshmi could trust--even the police were not trustworthy. I read this book in only a few days because I was so afraid for Lakshmi and hopeful that she would find an escape. I think her message of perseverance through the most dire circumstances is an important one for young readers, especially those who may face their own difficult circumstances at home.
The ending, I agree, was a bit abrupt though I like the inclusion of the author's note at the end. I guess I also wondered how she could possibly move on after such a horrific experience, which is why the ending was so frustrating. For me, this book is one I would definitely recommend to a student that I think is mature enough to handle the serious content. Great pick!

Kathy J. said...

I agree with Rebecca's comments about the vignette style of the novel- I think it lent an air of intensity to the situation Lakshmi was in...and contributed to the desperate pace of the novel and her situation. I personally like this style of writing and I think it appeals to many students.

I still keep thinking about Pam's cousin...what a situation to be in, lucky for her she was savy enough to get out of it...it could have ended much differently.

I also like the idea of using this for literature circles...lots of potential there.

Lisa said...

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Lisa said...

I loved this book!!! I can't remember the last time a book has affected me like this one did. As I read, I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. To think that this actually goes on today is unbelievable!!! I want to do something to stop it. I feel powerless. I truly felt like I was walking with Lakshmi on her journey. I think Lakshmi developed as a person while living a nightmare. She was so strong. She really wanted to provide for her mother and baby sister. I have to keep telling myself that there was no way her mother truly knew where she was going. How could a mother, of all people, condone that??? The connection between Lakshmi and the street boy was interesting. I can't believe "women" actually have their children live in that environment. How sad!! I have recommended this book already to students and one took me up on it. She also enjoyed it and we had a great discussion about it. I could definitley see Pam and I reading this with our juniors. I was left unsettled by the ending-I guess I just wanted to know that she was safe.