Saturday, December 23, 2006
Our high school librarian booktalked this for a parent night we had at school and I knew I had to read it. Then, I was fortunate enough to hear Patricia McCormick read at Donnell for the YA National Book Award press conference. After that, I couldn't wait to read Sold.
Lakshmi is 13 and living with her mother, baby brother and stepfather in Nepal. They get by, mostly because of Lakshmi and Ama. Stepfather gambles away his nights in the teahouse and does not work during the day. But as Ama keeps reminding her, any man is better than no man.
After a long draught, the monsoon wipes out the meager crops that the family has. Stepfather announces that Lakshmi must go to the city to work. Lakshmi is nervous, but she is looking forward to helping her family. After all, since Gita went to the city to work for a rich family, her own family has a sun in the living room, a new set of pots, spectacles for father, a wedding dress for her sister, and school for her little brother. Lakshmi just wants to earn enough to get a tin roof for her mother.
Four days of travel leave Lakshmi not in a wealthy house in the city, rather in Calcutta's red light district. She has to work until the sum Mumtaz paid for her is gone. But Lakshmi doesn't understand the city math until one of the other girls explains it to her.
"...If I work a hundred days more, I should have nearly enough....Then Shahanna teaches me city subtraction. Half of what the men pay goes to Mumtaz, she says. Then you must take away 80 rupees for what Mumtaz charges for your daily rice and dal. Another 100 a week for renting you a bed and pillow. And 500 for the shot the dirty-hands doctor gives us once a month..."(p. 147)
13, in a strange city, locked in a brothel, speaking little Hindi what chance does Lakshmi have?
This is an amazingly powerful story. Especially since it's based on fact. Sparsely and beautifully written, Sold can open eyes to a world that Western youth generally never thinks about. The Author's Note alone brought tears to my eyes.