Wednesday, July 31, 2013


A while ago, I read Kristof and WuDunn's book, Half the Sky, detailing the oppression of women.

I've seen the movie Water, which tells of Hindu women living in an ashram for widows, including the child Chuyia, and of their mistreatment.

Just the other day, I read of an FBI sweep that rescued more than 100 children from a sex trafficking ring, including 10 here in Michigan.

I am aware of the plight of many women in our world, both here in the U.S. and abroad. But nothing I've read or seen touched me as much as Patricia McCormick's book, Sold. Although it is written for teen-age readers, I found it compelling and moving.

The narrator is Lakshmi, a thirteen-year-old girl living in the mountains of Nepal with her mother, stepfather, and baby brother. She describes the hardship and poverty of their life, the small joys and the sadness. She tells of her goat Tali, and of the cucumbers she is growing (and which she has named). She tells of the four babies born between her and her brother. She describes drought and hunger, and then the falling of too much rain.
When the night rain soaks the ground past the soaking point, when the earthen walls around the paddy melt away, when the rice plants are sucked out of the earth one by one and washed down the slope, there should be a sound, a noise announcing that something is terribly wrong.

Instead there is a ghostly hush that tells us we have lost everything.
Lakshmi's stepfather arranges for her to go to the city, where she will work as a maid. She looks forward to being able to send money home to her family, just as her friend Gita has done. She describes her journey, and the amazing sights and sounds and smells.

But of course, as I read, I knew where she was really heading, and I dreaded the fate that awaited her. She fights and resists that fate, but eventually succumbs to the inevitable.
I cannot tell which of the things they do to me are real,
and which are nightmares.

I decide to think that it is all a nightmare.
Because if what is happening is real,
it is unbearable.
Lakshmi's mother had taught her, "Simply to endure is to triumph."  The other girls teach her how to get along in this new life, she learns some Hindu words from a young boy, and she continues to dream of paying off her debt so she can return home. One day, the boy gives her a pencil.
It is shiny yellow and it smells of
lead and rubber. And possibility.

I have been beaten here,
locked away,
violated a hundred times
and a hundred times more.
I have been starved
and cheated,
and disgraced.

How odd it is that I am undone by the simple kindness
of a small boy with a yellow pencil.
As I read, I believed this would end well, that Lakshmi would be one of those to escape the brothel and its horrors. It heartened me to read that she herself still had the drive to get away:
I know something else as well. I know that I would endure a
hundred punishments to be free of this place.
On her web page, McCormick wrote, "It was important to remember that, in even the grimmest of situations, there is kindness as well as cruelty, terror as well as boredom, and even, surprising as it may seem, humor." Her excellent book conveyed all this.

No comments:

Post a Comment