Read for 5427 class
Sparsely told in vignettes, Sold divulges the devastation of the present-day sex trafficking that occurs in India. Lakshmi is so brave, and her story is so harrowing. This book would be excellent for teaching empathy, about the horrors of the world and what we can do to lessen them, and for female empowerment.
Age recommendation: 4th-6th graders
ELA classroom: Pair with expository texts about sex trafficking
Lakshmi is a thirteen year old Nepali girl whose family’s budget is strained (and constrained) by her stepfather’s reckless gambling. When Lakshmi’s family can no longer make ends meet, Lakshmi is sent away to work in the city. It is her understanding (and her mother’s) that she is to be a lady’s maid and that her wages will be sent back to help support her family. The reality is much grimmer. Money and Lakshmi change hands several times over her journey to the city. When she arrives at her final destination, she’s in India and has no friends or family to help her or explain her new life. Her new mistress, Mumtaz, is a hateful woman who thinks nothing of punishing a girl if she doesn’t do as she’s told. Lakshmi finds herself enslaved in a brothel and Mumtaz expects her to give herself – in exchange for money - to the men that come. Girls in the brothel sicken all the time. As soon as they do, Mumtaz throws them out on the street. Lakshmi, who is good with calculations, figures she can work off her debt to Mumtaz in a matter of months. Only later does she learn the truth – Mumtaz isn’t sending any money back to her family, nor does she intend to let Lakshmi leave the brothel (until she’s of no use to her anymore). Hopeless and desperate, Lakshmi seeks assistance from an American relief organization, at great risk to her own safety.
This has been on my list of to-reads since it came out and generated plenty of discussion. It was a finalist for the National Book Award, and it truly deserves that honor. Without being disturbingly graphic, McCormick manages to convey the reality of Lakshmi’s existence as a prostitute and her struggle to free herself. Although Lakshmi’s story is fictional, it is based on real events - there are many young Nepali girls for who this tale is all too familiar. The narrative is a beautifully simple flow of consciousness, leaving lots of space for the reader’s imagination to engage with Lakshmi’s words. It’s a perfect blend for what Lakshmi is – a child still, but somehow older than her years (aged by her experiences). It’s on the short side, and the way that it’s written and set make it a fast read. Teens who have enjoyed Ellen Hopkins’ books might also like this one. It’s a bit less explicit, but it also feels more honest (and less played for the sensationalism).
Really well written simply told painful story of Lakshmi, a 13 year old Nepalese mountain girl sold into sex slavery in India. Provided insight into this world that is so very alive and yet hidden.
Lakshmi is a 13 year old girl from Nepal whose parents are poor. Lakshmi's parents sold Lakshmi to a stranger, who promised the family that Lakshmi would get work in the city as a made. When Lakshmi reaches India, she learns that she is sold into sexual slavery (or prostitution). What do you think happens to Laksmi? Does she stay quiet and continue to work at the brothel, or does she make a decisin that allows her to reclaim her life?
For more reviews, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Patricia McCormick’s Sold was a nominee for the National Book award and made ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults. Clearly, it was pretty popular and received much praise. Sadly, though, I did not enjoy it, either in print or on audio. I first read it in grad school for young adult services class and just reread it. While I do see the book’s many merits and take no issue with the book’s critical success, it’s one of those that doesn’t work for me.
To start with, I have to point out what I think should be obvious: I’m glad this is a story that’s being told. McCormick’s drawing attention to one of the scariest facts of life. In Sold, thirteen-year-old Lakshmi is sold by her stepfather into a life of prostitution. Her life consists of misery after misery. She falls into a severe depression, her tone seeming that of a much older person, someone having lost all hope, when she’s only fourteen. While her story is fictional, many girls in the world are living something very similar. These stories need to be told.
Because I love the concept and the message so much, I really wish I loved the book. However, something about it really does not resonate with me. Lakshmi’s narrative voice might be right on point, but I don’t find her especially compelling. Frankly, I spent a lot of time on both reads bored. The writing’s also a more simplistic style than I personally enjoy. Both of these things are subjective, and McCormick surely made the right call based on the reception of the book by everyone else I know who’s read it, but no book fits every reader and I’m not the right one for this particular book.
This time around, I had an additional struggle with Sold. Namely, the audiobook is narrated by Justine Eyre. Though I do find Eyre to be quite a skilled audiobook narrator, I find the casting of her for Lakshmi quite upsetting. Eyre is Canadian, and part Kiwi. What she’s not is Nepalese or even remotely from that same region of the world. It may be that it really is that difficult to find audiobook narrators that aren’t white, but shouldn’t that just lead to a search for them? Surely there are people who would like jobs. I’m sure the makers of the audiobook didn’t mean any harm, but to me hiring a white woman to perform the role of a Nepalese girl, while doing a stereotypical accent, is whitewashing.
What it comes down to is that I think Sold is a great book for a different kind of reader, and I wouldn’t want to put anyone off of reading it. However, I would suggest not going with the audio if you’re also bothered by the casting.
heart-wrenching. a book that leaves you feeling you must do something.
"My name is Lakshmi. I am from Nepal. I am thirteen." Those words are all she has to tie to her self worth after being sold into slavery by her step-father. Having to leave her Ama and baby brother in a mountain village in Nepal, Lakshmi is carried through cities and across the border, into India. She is repeatedly haggled over, each seller wanting to get the highest price for her until her journey ends in a brothel where her virginity is sold.
She is drugged to make her more amenable to her nightly visitors until she is no longer a new girl and she must now work for her customers. Each night, the girls must pit themselves against each other to get the right customers creating a somewhat tenuous sisterhood among them. Lakshmi makes friends with the son of one of her roommates, he teaches her to read and speak a few words of Hindi after discovering her pouring over the pictures in his book. He also gives her the precious gift of a pencil, which she uses to count up her earnings to see how close she is to paying back Mumtaz, the brothel's madame.
Mumtaz has no intention of ever releasing her, unless she gets the "virus" or no longer brings in anymore money to "Happiness House" as it is so called. The book was written very poetically. Each chapter or page an individual vignette of its own. It is simply written and the pace moves quickly but is also quickly moving, emotionally, in it's simplicity.