The Blue Notebook by James Levine
Book description~ A haunting yet hopeful story of a young Indian prostitute who uses writing and imagination to transcend her reality. An unforgettable, deeply affecting tribute to the powers of imagination and the resilience of childhood, The Blue Notebook tells the story of Batuk, a precocious 15-year-old girl from rural India who was sold into sexual slavery by her father when she was nine. As she navigates the grim realities of the Common Street–a street of prostitution in Mumbai where children are kept in cages as they wait for customers to pay for sex–Batuk manages to put pen to paper, recording her private thoughts and stories in a diary. The novel is powerfully told in Batuk’s voice, through the words she writes in her journal, where she finds hope and beauty in the bleakest circumstances. Beautifully crafted and deeply human, The Blue Notebook explores how people, in the most difficult of situations, can use storytelling to make sense of and give meaning to their lives.
So I did it. Yep. What’s done is done. I broke my book buying ban. BUT with good reason, I promise. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that Fabookulous and I get our books for this challenge from the library, Paperbackswap or from friends on loan. The only time we buy new books (with a coupon I assure you) is for author friends of ours who come to our area for book signings. Even then, many of those books are gifted to our friends or family. The Blue Notebook was just released in paperback on July 6th and I read it in preparation for my book club’s July discussion. What made me more than happy to buy this book, was knowing the author’s royalties from U.S. book sales are all being donated to the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The beauty of this challenge is in books like The Blue Notebook. This book captivated me, saddened me, and hooked me from the first sentence. I’ve been so sleep deprived, preoccupied, in the midst of catching up with family and friends, being out-of-town two weekends straight, trying to get things ready to entertain the entire month of July preparing for our guests. Are you exhausted yet?? Great- now you can understand that by the time my head hit the pillow, I’d read a page or two and my eyelids closed. I actually think I’ve mastered the art of sleeping w/ my eyes open. Yes, I have many quirks! I digress…
I picked up two “light reads” that I’d been waiting for from the library and I just couldn’t get into them. I have a rule that if by 50 pages in, I’m not invested in the story or the characters, I simply move on. This year is flying by and there’s no time to waste on mediocre books. I jumped into reading this month’s book club selection as soon as it hit bookstores in paperback and I was glad to have gotten into a GOOD, albeit sad book!
“When clay dries in an oven, it is changed from a soft, malleable form to a solid, defined one; once baked, the hardened clay can never be molded again, only broken. A few hours earlier I had entered Gahil’s house as a soft glob of warm clay. I would leave there a hardened, useful vessel.”~ Batuk
I’m very much looking forward to our book club get together in a few weeks to hear what my fellow book babes think of Batuk’s story. It’s pretty impossible not to feel changed and with a new perspective on your own life after reading about Batuk’s daily struggles. She somehow maintains an optimistic outlook and generally happy existence. How on earth she does this is definitely worth reading. You will not be able to put this book down. This quick read shares the power of the written word and crosses culture, race and geography. Using pencil or pen, her blue notebook (or whatever blank paper is accessible) as her diary, and her vivid imagination, Batuk finds escapism in using her gift of imagination. The artistry, imagery and metaphors used to describe Batuk’s circumstances are amazing. They also become her coping mechanism in putting her mind elsewhere than feel the pain inflicted by men like Uncle Nir and Master Iftikar. The author’s ability to evoke naiveté yet worldliness at the same time, as if we were truly inside the head of a 15-year-old , is breathtaking, captivating and emotional. If you liked Memoirs of a Geisha, I think you will understand how socially important this novel is.
“True regret is a veil, and like all human emotions it serves to soften the impact of reality. It is a failed belief that we cannot experience the true brilliance to the light, but it is through fear that we veil ourselves from that brilliance. We cloak ourselves in layers upon layers of regret, dishonesty, cruelty, and pride.”~ Batuk
In reading The Blue Notebook, my eyes are open wider to a topic that is near to me already. This novel is based on a real girl, who doctor-turned-author James Levine encountered in Mumbai. Batuk’s story is a testament to human strength. We simply cannot close our minds, or ignore the inadequacies in our society and abroad. One of my best friends is affiliated with Made By Survivors, an organization part of the Emancipation Network. The Network is managed by a woman who advocates against human trafficking. They give survivors of human trafficking an outlet for making their own income so they can escape the persecution and poverty they once knew. Their mission is to “improve the lives of slavery survivors through empowerment and education, to assist rescue shelters by offering job programs and funding, to improve rehabilitation and reintegration, and to prevent trafficking in high risk communities”. Made By Survivors programs are supported not only by donations, but also by the efforts of survivors themselves, who design and create unique fair trade jewelry, bags and gifts. 100% of profits are donated to survivors and shelters.
I hope you will buy this book and read Batuk’s story in The Blue Notebook. I hope it raises your awareness about the horrors of human trafficking. I hope you will re-evaluate the minutiae you complain about on a regular basis because let’s face it- if you’re reading this blog, you’ll agree we have it pretty damn good here!!
For more information on this book, please visit www. BatukFoundation.org.
35 down, 17 to go!