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What are you reading?

“I recently read a book called Sold, by Patricia McCormick. It’s about the trafficking of girls from Nepal to brothels in India. I spent a summer in Nepal doing research — I’m in grad school — and I found it there. It’s fiction, but it’s based on true stories.”

Excerpt from author’s note in Sold:

“Each year, nearly 12,000 Nepali girls are sold by their families, intentionally or unwittingly, into a life of sexual slavery in the brothels of India…. As part of my research for Sold, I traced the path that many Nepalese girls have taken — from remote villages to the red-light districts of Calcutta…. But most touching and inspiring was interviewing survivors themselves. These young women have experienced what many people would describe as unspeakable horrors. But they are speaking out — with great dignity…. It is in their honor that this book was written.”

Tell me about your favorite character.

“The main character, Lakshmi. The story is written in the form of journal entries, and it’s told from her perspective. She’s a young girl growing up in this very small village in rural Nepal, and her family is very, very poor. She has to work every day in the fields to help her mom because her stepfather has only one arm and cannot work. She feels bad — she wishes she could contribute somehow. When someone comes to the village offering domestic work, her mother decides to send her. But instead, she gets sold to an Indian brothel. She can’t contact anyone. She tries to escape many, many times. An American comes to the brothel and asks her where she’s from, and then he comes back and saves her at the end.”

Excerpt from Sold:

“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 had 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.

Do you have a favorite author?

“No, I like many different authors.”

What is the most life-changing book that you’ve read?

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, by Jared Diamond. I read it in college, and it changed the path that I was on as far as my major was concerned. I was doing theater, but then I read that book, and I became interested in environmental studies and in world politics. The book is basically a history of how white people took over indigenous communities. How Europeans moved to places like America and brought guns, germs, and steel, and that’s how they were able to conquer those communities.”

Do you talk to people about what you read?

“I’m a grad student, so these days I don’t have much time to read. But when I read something really moving, I do want to tell someone.”

Do you read any magazines or newspapers?

“I read everything online — ABC, CNN, Al-Jazeera.”

Name: SHAB | Age: 29 | Occupation: GRAD STUDENT

Neighborhood: NORMAL HEIGHTS | Where interviewed: BLUESTOCKING BOOKS, HILLCREST

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