The Blue Notebook is by James Levine, M.D., a physician at the Mayo clinic. He wrote it after visiting Mumbai, India for medical research where he interviewed children from a part of town where child prostitutes work known as the Street of Cages. He saw a young girl writing in a blue notebook, and from that poignant scene, a story was born.
This is not a memoir, but Levine uses his research to create a fictional heroine – Batuk – and her experiences which are typical for these girls. When the novel begins, she’s 15 and has acquired this notebook where she decides she’ll write her story. (It is exceptional that she can read or write, having learned when she was seven during a 12-week stay in a missionary hospital recovering from TB.) Alternating between past and present, the reader is given a horrifying education of the abuses these kids suffer at the hands of their captors. At just over 200 pages, this may be a quick read, but it is anything but easy.
Three days after she watches her father take an envelope full of money in exchange for handing her over, she is dessert – sold at a dinner of business men to the highest bidder by her new owner. The winner gains the prize of taking her virginity. Batuk is nine years old.
From there, she is given to a madam on the streets where she ‘makes sweet-cakes‘ up to 10 times a day. She also introduces us to one of her peers, Puneet, who is prized above all the other children in her group because he is a boy.
If you had trouble with Lovely Bones, you may not want to try this. However, if you are looking for book that will change you forever, Levine’s The Blue Notebook is as compelling as it is disturbing. Batuk’s story is not only of the horrors of a depraved world, but also the power of language and story to provide hope and (if only mental and emotional) escape.
Dr. Levine is donating all of the proceeds of The Blue Notebook to the International and National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children.
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