1) The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
“One day, Parvana’s father is arrested by the Taliban — the extreme religious faction that controls Afghanistan and the family is left without anyone to earn money and shop for food. Forbidden to work as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy to save her family. The Breadwinner is a novel about loyalty, survival, families and friendship under extraordinary circumstances. A map, glossary and author’s note provide young readers with background and context.”
This book will incite critical dialogue about gender inequality, political oppression, education for all, and family relationships. This storyline goes beyond the surface message of the oppression of women to examine how Parvana’s strength and determination motivated her to fight for change and survival. Parvana and the women in this story represent the unheard voices of the Afghan women and give a name to the faceless women behind the burqa.
The beauty of this story is that it holds universal truths that go beyond the borders of Afghanistan; for example, the fight for human rights and equality. Parvana’s story helps to dissect these issues and the fundamental principles can be applied to any global situation of disenfranchisement or oppression; she is a lens through which we can examine the world of the oppressed.
2) Sold by, Patricia McCormick
“Told in a series of haunting vignettes, SOLD is a harrowing account of a sexual slavery. Alternating lyrical imagery with precise detail, McCormick gives voice to the terror and bewilderment of of a young girl robbed of her childhood but who finds the strength to triumph.”
Sold by Patricia McCormick is the heart breaking story of thirteen year old Lakshmi, an impoverished young girl from Nepal who is sold into sexual slavery by her stepfather. McCormick’s poetic narrative gives a face to the reality of human trafficking-a growing threat in today’s society, especially with the rise in sex tourism in third world countries. This constant increase in human trafficking is encouraged by political corruption, greed, and the continual existence of poverty among the majority of the world’s population. The ones that will suffer the most and pay for the world’s apathy are the most vulnerable-our children.
In order to pay off her stepfather’s gambling debts and the failure of the family crops, Lakshmi is told that she must go to the city and work as a housemaid. Her family’s survival becomes her burden to bear and she takes it on willingly, leaving behind the only life she has known. A reader may think that Lakshmi’s “primitive” village life is horrifying, but the true horror has yet to begin. In Nepal, Lakshmi was granted many rights (albeit not all the rights outlined by the Convention of the Rights of the Child) such as the right to education; these rights will be the first thing stripped from Lakshmi as she is forced through the dehumanizing process of becoming a sex slave in Calcutta, India.
It is Lakshmi’s resilience of spirit that causes her to survive. She dares to hope when all the others passively accept their fate: “I ask Ama why. ‘Why,’ I say, ‘must women suffer so?’ ‘This has always been our fate,’ she says. ‘Simply to endure,’ she says, ‘is to triumph’” (page 16). Not only does Lakshmi endure, but she fights and conquers the chains of slavery that hold her captive-the very chains that never touched her heart or mind.