I read this book in three hours. This is not to say that I am some super human speed reader, it's to say that the book is that good and a fast read due to the almost poem-like format that the author uses.
Nepal Youth Foundation. Here we learned about how NYF has rescued over 4000 girls, thus far, from indentured servitude. In other words, these girls, some as young as 6 years old, were sold by their poverty stricken parents, to what they thought were rich people who they then would work for as maids. In some cases, this was partially true, in that the girls worked as maid slaves working in horrible conditions, with very little, if any, money going back to their families. Some were sold to brothels.
And this is the story of Lakshmi. She is a thirteen year old Nepali girl who loves her family, but maybe not her gambling stepfather. She enjoys the simple pleasures of rural life in Nepal; taking care of her pet goat, talking with her loving mother, and eyeing the boy with the slanted eyes that she has been betrothed to. Her future looks bright ahead, full of love and babies and family. She even is allowed to go to school.
Suddenly the monsoon season comes and devastates their rice paddy, and her stepfather announces that she must go to the city to get a job.
What happens next is not hard to guess, but the way that Patricia McCormick has written this story is powerful and heart wrenching in its innocence.
The opening pages plainly spell out what I believe so passionately. It is not just the burdens of women in the developing world, but the power you give to women, their families, and the community when you empower women in the world.
"Let me go to the city," I say. "I can work for a rich family like Gita does, and send my wages home to you."
Ama strokes my cheek, the skin of her work worn hand as rough as the tongue of a newborn goat. "Lakshmi, my child," she says. "You must stay in school, no matter what your stepfather says."
Lately, I want to tell her, my stepfather looks at me the same way he looks at the cucumbers I'm growing in front of our hut. He flicks the ash from his cigarette and squints. "You better get a good price for them." He says.
When he looks, he sees cigarettes and rice beer, a new vest for himself.
I see a tin roof.
For more information about the rescuing of girls in Nepal, you can visit Maiti Nepal (where the author did many interviews for research for this book) the winner of last year's CNN Hero Award, and Nepal youth Foundation.