AUTHOR: Patricia McCormick
SOURCE: purchased/classroom library
PUBLISHER: Hyperion Book CH
LENGTH: 263 pages
SUMMARY: (Booklist) Lakshmi, 13, knows nothing about the world beyond her village shack in the Himalayas of Nepal, and when her family loses the little it has in a monsoon, she grabs a chance to work as a maid in the city so she can send money back home. What she doesn’t know is that her stepfather has sold her into prostitution. She ends up in a brothel far across the border in the slums of Calcutta, locked up, beaten, starved, drugged, raped, “torn and bleeding,” until she submits. In beautiful clear prose and free verse that remains true to the child’s viewpoint, first-person, present-tense vignettes fill in Lakshmi’s story. The brutality and cruelty are ever present (“I have been beaten here, / locked away, / violated a hundred times / and a hundred times more”), but not sensationalized. An unexpected act of kindness is heartbreaking (“I do not know a word / big enough to hold my sadness”). One haunting chapter brings home the truth of “Two Worlds”: the workers love watching The Bold and the Beautiful on TV though in the real world, the world they know, a desperate prostitute may be approached to sell her own child. An unforgettable account of sexual slavery as it exists now. Hazel Rochman
BRIDGE: Sold is narrative verse that will hurt your heart and open your eyes at the same time. The story of Lakshmi’s sexual slavery is brutal in its honesty but never sensational. The sparse verse highlights the limits of Lakshmi’s social knowledge and lays bare the ugliness of desperation brought on by poverty, greed, and addiction.
One could pair this book with other titles in verse like Ellen Hopkins’s Crank or other titles about addiction or abuse like I Am Alice. Other connections one could make could include inquiry projects researching modern day slavery: sex trafficking, sweatshop workers, etc. There are quite a few nonfiction titles that could pair with McCormick’s title including I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali or A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. Students could research the geographical setting of the story as many American children are probably only familiar with the names “Nepal” and “Himalayas” but know little about their geography or culture.
After finishing the book, students could write their own poems about helplessness or a time when they felt unfairly treated. If students don’t have the experience to base a poem on their own lives, it is a good exercise to have them write poems of hope in response to Lakshmi’s despair. Found Poem exercises also work well with this title. It is also interesting to have students attempt portraits of some of the characters.
READERS: This book needs to be recommended with care. Readers need to have a level of maturity to grasp the import of McCormick’s message without being overwhelmed by the sexual content. While none of it is graphic, immature readers will miss the message. *My PLN friend, David Etkin (@DavidAEtkin) said the audio version of this book is amazing.
OTHER TITLES: Readers who connect with this book might also enjoy Scars by Cheryl Rainfeld, Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, or Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.