Sold

Patricia McCormick
Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain 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 that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather says she must leave home and 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 be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at “Happiness House” full of hope.  But she soon learns the unthinkable truth:  she has been sold into prostitution.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.Lakshmi’s life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape.  Still, she lives by her mother’s words—Simply to endure is to triumph—and gradually, she forms friendships with the other girls 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? Written in spare and evocative vignettes, this powerful novel renders a world that is as unimaginable as it is real, and a girl who not only survives but triumphs.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2016-11-18

Class, Racism, Sexism, Poverty, Urbanism, Sex, and Ruralism are benign subjects of American culture, yet these topics are not exclusively American. Sold by Patricia McCormick transports her American audience to a Nepalese impoverished village, where abject poverty is juxtaposed to unconditional love and the bucolic landscape of a Himalayan village.  Lakshmi, our sensory-sensitive narrator, is a teen who excels in school and is encouraged by Ama, her mother, to stay focus on education is the way out of poverty.  However, her stepfather and climate changes derail Lakshmi’s plans. A monsoon ruins her crop and is forced by her stepfather to leave to the city to earn money for the family. The journey from Nepal to Calcutta signals to the audience the physical, emotional, and intellectual challenges and growth that Lakshmi experiences.  Her “job” as a maid was to economically uplift her family, however, her intended uplift descended her to physical and psychological degradation as her job was not of a maid but that of a prostitute.  The ironic name of the brothel, the Happiness House, Lakshmi’s meets other young and older women, and foreigners who function as either nemesis, nurture, or liberator.  Through the friendship she forms, Lakshmi, learns to speak, read and write English, which later aids her in her rescue and emancipation from Happiness House. 

 

The reading level of Sold is middle school appropriate but the content.  The subjects of human trafficking and sex trade are topics for high schoolers, perhaps even upperclassmen. By this point, they have taken courses in World and American History which will provide them context that they can bring with them as the read the novel.  Sold, is an interdisciplinary text that ELA educators can focus on how the first person narration creates an intimate space between reader and text; furthermore, the first person narration gives potency to her journey of reclaiming her body, consciousness and voice.  Also, Sold reads like a journal or a narrative free verse text which will demonstrate to students an alternative way of writing a narrative piece.  The socio-political topics embedded in the plot, would be helpful in a Sociology or American/International Studies course as it would give the students a view of contemporary world history without the history textbook jargon. 

Reviewed: 2014-03-24

I love reading Young Adult books because they have a humanity about them. The lasting statistic for me is that 12,000 Nepalese girls are sold by their families into Calcutta's prostitution district, annually. Slavery is not a phenomenon of the past, but very much alive and present. The novel itself is poetic and searing. Of course, Lakshmi's learning 3 phrases of English save her life. Her yearning to read saves her. The education of the world's female population will be its salvation. 

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