Synopses & Reviews
Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family's crops, Lakshmi's stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family.
He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at "Happiness House" full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution.
An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning. She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family's debt-then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave.
Lakshmi's life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape. Still, she lives by her mother's words-Simply to endure is to triumph-and gradually, she forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Then the day comes when she must make a decision-will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life?
Written in spare and evocative vignettes, this powerful novel renders a world that is as unimaginable as it is real, and a girl who not only survives but triumphs.
"This hard-hitting novel told in spare free verse poems exposes the plight of a 13-year-old Nepali girl sold into sexual slavery. Through Lakshmi's innocent first-person narrative, McCormick (Cut) reveals her gradual awakening to the harshness of the world around her. Even in their poverty-stricken rural home, Lakshmi finds pleasure in the beauty of the Himalayan mountains, the sight of Krishna, her betrothed, and the cucumbers she lovingly tends, then sells at market. After a monsoon wipes out their crops, her profligate stepfather sells Lakshmi to an 'auntie' bound for the city. During her journey, the girl acquires a visual and verbal vocabulary of things she has never seen before: electric lights, a TV. Soon a hard-won sense of irony invades her narrative, too. Early on, a poem entitled 'Everything I Need to Know' marks her step into womanhood (after her first menstrual cycle); later, 'Everything I Need to Know Now' lists her rules as an initiated prostitute. In her village, Lakshmi had rebelliously purchased her first Coca-Cola for her mother, after her stepfather sold her; later, in Calcutta, she overhears two johns talking and realizes, 'the price of a bottle of Coca-Cola at Bajai Sita's store./ That is what he paid for [a turn with] me.' The author beautifully balances the harshness of brothel life with the poignant relationships among its residents; especially well-drawn characters include the son of one of the prostitutes, who teaches Lakshmi to read and speak some English and Hindi, and clever Monica, who earns her freedom but gets sent back by her shamed family. Readers will admire Lakshmi's grit and intelligence, and be grateful for a ray of hope for this memorable heroine at book's end. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"McCormick uses language both lyrical and spare to lead the reader into this deeply troubled and troubling world." Children's Literature
"McCormick provides readers who live in safety and under protection of the law with a vivid window into a harsh and cruel world one most would prefer to pretend doesn't exist." Kirkus Reviews
"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." Booklist
"This is an important story, and McCormick tells it well." KLIATT
Sold into prostitution, Lakshmi lives a nightmare and gradually forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Then the day comes when she must make a decision to risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life.
Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut in a mountain village in Nepal. Her life is made up of simple pleasures like going to school and spending time with her loving ama and baby brother. But these happy times are undercut by the desperate poverty that threatens the lives of the villagers.
Then one day, Lakshmi's father brings her to a shopkeeper in town and tells Lakshmi that she is going to go work as a maid in India so that her wages can be sent home. Glad to help support her family, Lakshmi undertakes the long journey and arrives at "Happiness House" full of hope. But she soon discovers the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution.
An old woman named Mumtaz rules the house with an iron fist. She informs Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family's debt. And of course, crooked Mumtaz will make sure that that never happens.
Lakshmi life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape. But gradually, she forms friendships that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Until the day comes that she has to make a decision one that will cause her to risk everything to for a chance to reclaim her life.
Written in spare and evocative vignettes, this powerful novel chronicles the story of one girl's struggle to maintain her sense of self against all odds.
Thirteen-year-old Habo has always been different--light eyes, yellow hair and white skin. Not the good brown skin his family has and not the white skin of tourists. Habo is strange and alone. His father, unable to accept Habo, abandons the family; his mother can scarcely look at him. His brothers are cruel and the other children never invite him to play. Only his sister Asu loves him well. But even Asu can't take the sting away when the family is forced from their small Tanzanian village, and Habo knows he is to blame.
Seeking refuge in Mwanza, Habo and his family journey across the Serengeti. His aunt is glad to open her home until she sees Habo for the first time, and then she is only afraid. Suddenly, Habo has a new word for himself: Albino. But they hunt Albinos in Mwanza because Albino body parts are thought to bring good luck. And soon Habo is being hunted by a fearsome man with a machete. To survive, Habo must not only run, but find a way to love and accept himself.
About the Author
McCormick has worked as a free-lance magazine and newspaper writer, contributing regularly to The New York Times and Parents magazine, where she reviwed children's books and family movies. Since completing a master's degree in creative writing at the New School two years ago, she has concentrated almost exclusively on writing fiction and teaching creative writing to third-graders in Queens.