Friday, July 8, 2011

The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine

The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine

This is a story about slavery, modern day slavery.  The Blue Notebook follows a young girl named Batuk as she is sold into sexual slavery by her father in Mumbai, India.  An all too common story these days as there are thousands of young girls and women held in sexual slavery in India today with the majority of girls sold into slavery between the ages of 10 and 12. 

Batuk is a rare gem as she has learned to write and obtain a notebook in which to record her thoughts.  This blue notebook sustains her and is her legacy to the world.  Most girls sold into sexual slavery in India come from the rural areas and are not literate.  Many girls travel from Nepal and Bangladesh and are sold by traffickers under the guise of work. When they realize they are slaves it is too late, many girls never see their families again.

This is a beautiful, emotional story of hope and innocence as well as a dark and horrific tale of the dark side of the modern world.  I read this book aloud to my 9th grade Humanities class, skipping some of the most sexual parts.  It was hard to read aloud as there are instances of rape and severe violence.  I have to say that my students were drawn to this book and on the last day of school, the last period of the day, they wanted me to read for the last 15 minutes of school.  That says something about a book, when students would rather listen and read, than do anything else.  Frankly, I was shocked as it has never happened before.

Levine is a doctor here in Rochester, Minnesota and traveled to Mumbai.  It was there that he saw a prostitute in the red light district behind a cage writing in a notebook.  It was here that Batuk's story was born.  Levine, writes very well and most of the sexual talk compares to cooking, for example, making sweet cake.  This type of cooking language softens the sexual abuse and content but for me defined the book as extremely creative.  I highly recommend it and hope that Levine takes the time to write another book.

The Blue Notebook is a story that needs to be told and deserves to be read. 

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