Harrowing, yes—and inspiring.




The harrowing real-life stories of three girls who turned their experiences as sex-trafficked children into a fight to destroy the practice.

This set of brief biographies opens with 9-year-old Somaly Mam in Cambodia around 1979. Sold to a brothel by her ostensible caretaker, Somaly experiences rape, beatings, starvation and punishment—she is covered in snakes and sewage. Her torments may seem alien to some readers, at least partly due to inadequate contextualization of Cambodia’s historical moment (the immediate aftermath of genocide). It’s therefore useful that the next story is Minh Dang’s in 1990s California; her parents force her into prostitution when she’s only 10. Her story seems otherwise so commonplace American (she plays soccer, gets A’s in school, and is expected to attend and graduate from college) that the overlap between her experiences and Somaly’s seems that much more horrific. The final biography is of Maria Suarez, a Mexican immigrant who’s kidnapped, forced into a sexual relationship with an older man, arrested after his death, imprisoned for two decades and nearly deported on her eventual release. The girls’ stories could be too devastating to read save for each tale’s conclusion, detailing the efforts these women have made to rescue girls and eliminate childhood slavery. Minh Dang is upset when people speak of her as an inhumanly brave heroine; the focus here on activism after suffering may be enough to show the women as people, not victims.

Harrowing, yes—and inspiring. (glossary, resources, afterword) (Nonfiction. 14-17)

Pub Date: June 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4380-0453-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Barron's

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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In 1910, Pascal D’Angelo and his father left the harsh Abruzzi region of Italy to escape its impossible poverty and journey to the United States; Pascal was 16 years old. Murphy, a graceful narrator of history, presents the life of the peasant as he journeyed through life in the new country. He never became wealthy or even comfortable, but did leave an impression with his poetry—and this from a man who became literate in English as an adult, largely self-taught (and librarians will be delighted to know that they helped him). D’Angelo also wrote an autobiography, Son of Italy, relating to life as an immigrant and the hard—largely pick-and-shovel—work he did to earn a scant living. Such a telling should resonate when readers think about why people come to a new country where they do not speak the language, do not know the customs, and too often are alone, even (or especially) today. The protagonist does not come through as a sharp personality; he is somewhat shadowy against the times and places of his life. He stands out as a symbol rather than a full person. But his accomplishments are certainly large. Archival photos are interesting but sometimes captions are non-indicative; what do they mean? When and where were they taken? There are two photos of D’Angelo. As usual, Murphy provides details that help set the story. A biography of a common man that is also the history of a civilization and its times. (index and bibliography) (Biography. 9-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-395-77610-4

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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