Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Blue Notebook By James A. Levine *Review*

Revulsion roiled in the pit of my stomach- it was page 2. By page 6 I had put the book down on the coffee table and confessed to my husband "I don't think I can read this book." My dear sweet husband, to which everything is black or white, replied "Then don't." But it wasn't that easy.

I thought about what I had read in a few short pages of this book while washing dishes and had come to the conclusion that I could bury my head in the sand and just choose not to believe things like this still really happen; or I could read the book, educate myself, and spread the message. I chose the latter.

Levine, a doctor at the Mayo clinic, was inspired to write this heartbreaking and terrifying novel when he was interviewing homeless children in Mumbai as part of his medical research. In the "Street of Cages" where child prostitutes ply their trade, literally encaged by their neglectful and abusive overseers (who pocket all the profits), Levine was struck by the sight of a young girl sitting outside her cage writing in a notebook. Batuk is a 15 year old girl who was sold to Mamaki Briila by her father when she was 9. Forced to service up to ten men a day from her "nest," and subject to deplorable treatment by the men who pay for her services, she's even abused by the doctor who examines her; her friend Puneet, meanwhile, nearly dies after being sexually assaulted by two policemen and is castrated at the first signs of puberty. Batuk tells her story matter-of-factly, in a voice reminiscent of The Color Purple's. While painful to read, Batuk's story puts a face on the mistreatment and disregard for children worldwide, as well as a testament to the hopefulness and power of literacy. All U.S. proceeds from the book will be donated to helping exploited children. (Publisher's Weekly)

Young prostitutes on The Street of Cages.

Even after writing this book and donating the proceeds of it to The International and National Centers for Missing & Exploited Children, author James A. Levine was still so troubled by what he had seen that he made repeated trips to India to try to figure out how something positive could be made out of what was happening day after day. He found a place called The Sparrow's Nest that was making a difference. Sparrows are the children of the Mumbaii prostitutes. The Sparrow's Nest provides food, medical care, a place to sleep and an education to these children free of charge. Out of 230 Sparrows cared for over an 8 year period not a single one has entered into prostitution. In fact many have entered college and gone onto careers in teaching, business and hotel management. Read more about The Sparrow's Nest here.

Even though this was an extremely difficult book to read and I am still processing what I read, I would recommend everyone to push past the disgust you will first feel and finish this book. It has definitely made a difference to me and I hope to other children as well. I initially checked this book out from the library but I went today and purchased this book and my donation to The Sparrow's Nest is on it's way.