A Book Review by Melissa McNallan*
The lyrical prose of James A. Levine reaches moments of whimsy, drawing readers into the world of Batuk. Her world is a cage on the common street in Mumbai, India. Batuk is a fifteen year-old girl sold into the sex trade by her father. Despite her desperate circumstances Batuk’s spirit is strong. The story is told entirely in her voice. “I am not deranged, but there are countless days I wish I were.” She is not naïve, her innocence has been torn countless times and yet her voice is that of a spirited child, her mind full of imagination that her spirit seems to find refuge and resiliency in. She weaves strong tapestries of stories to hold onto and be carried by.
The Blue Notebook was inspired by a journey Levine took to work with humanitarian agencies. As part of his medical research investigating child labor, Levine interviewed homeless children on a street in Mumbai, known as the Street of Cages, where child prostitutes worked. While walking down this street with the group, Levine, “saw a fifteen-year-old girl leaning against her bright blue steel gate. She wore a pink sari with a rainbow trim and was writing in a blue notebook.” This powerful image haunted Levine, prompting him to write this book.
Levine is a professor medicine at Mayo Clinic. His U.S. royalties are being donated to the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children. www.BatukFoundation.org
*Melissa McNallan works as a retail assistant in the Mayo Clinic Gift Shop. She is also a freelance writer based in Elgin, Minnesota. In addition to writing articles for local magazines and newspapers, she is a Minnesota State Arts Board, Artist Initiative Grant Recipient in prose.
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