Title: Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery
Author: Abby Sher
Genre: YA/MG, nonfiction
Publisher/Publication Date: Barron’s Educational Series / June 2, 2014
How Did I Get It? Netgalley
Synopsis from Goodreads: Somaly Mam was born in the forests of Cambodia in the early 1970’s and sold into sexual slavery by her “grandfather” before she was even twelve years old.
Maria Suarez came to America from Mexico when she was fifteen with her family. She went on a job interview to be a maid. When she got inside, her “interviewer” locked the door and told her he owned her body from that moment on.
Minh Dang was born in San Jose, California. Her house was always neat and there were bright rose bushes in her front yard. Nobody knew that behind closed doors her parents were raping and abusing her from the time she was three years old. Soon they started selling her body to neighbors as well.
Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Slavery, by award-winning author Abby Sher, recounts these women’s incredible journeys from sex slave to survivor to savior— but it doesn’t stop there. The book delves even deeper into the horrors of human trafficking, an issue at the forefront of global outreach and activism.
Remarkable, timely, and incredibly inspiring, Breaking Free, will strike a chord with all young readers as it recounts the stories of these courageous young women who, instead of running from their pasts, choose to help those still caught in the system. It sends the powerful message that, even in the most tragic circumstances, the unwavering hope and compassion of the human spirit can and will shine through.
I first requested this book because human trafficking is actually a pretty big issue in my county. My sister’s dance studio is next door to a “massage parlor” – and it’s been raided a few times since we’ve been there and shut down because it’s a trafficking stopping point. The studio actually did a beautiful piece to raise awareness, and we have fundraisers for the cause at all of our recitals. So when I saw this book available for review, I jumped at it, simply because I wanted to know more, and really educate myself on the subject. This was also the first non-fiction book I’ve read since college, and I wanted to expand my genre horizons.
The first thing I noticed was the writing style: it was very simplistic, with basic sentence structure and straight-forward vocabulary. Not a lot of embellishment, unlike most books I’m used to reading! At first, it bothered me quite a bit, but I soon realized that this book wasn’t written for adults – it’s geared more towards YA audiences, and even middle grade I’d dare to say. It wasn’t gory or explicit at all, but the harsh realities are still there. It was sobering, to say the least, but also very educational because it was so black and white.
Each woman’s story is detailed all the way up to recent years – I think even an event from 2013 or ’14 was mentioned. They were all so powerful, not just because of their experiences and triumphs, but simply because it showed all the different facets of how trafficking can occur. Somaly Mam showed the side occurring in “far-off” countries; Minh Dang’s story told of the darkness lurking inside even American homes; and Maria Suarez’s experiences show what happens to many immigrants when they enter a new country.
Another unexpected aspect to the book was the fourth section – it contained a bunch of resources and information about trafficking. It was essentially a glossary of terms and organizations pertinent to understanding the finer details of the practice.
Overall, I found that some parts were very interesting, and others were a bit dry. But for someone who doesn’t love non-fiction, I actually think this went rather well for me. A more detailed synopsis I read mentions the book being used in schools as a teaching tool, and I can easily see it working that way. I may not have been gripped the entire time, but I definitely walked away having learned something new!
My Final Rating:
By the way, this is the studio’s dance, if anyone is interested in watching it: