Thursday, November 8, 2012

My Book of Life By Angel

My Book of Life By Angel, by author Martine Leavitt is about the "tragedy of discarded children." It is described as "stunning" in Kirkus Reviews, and it is.

This YA novel in verse does what a fictional account of a true story is able to do, that is, put us there emotionally.

What is the true story that inspires Leavitt's work? Beginning in 1983 female sex workers began to disappear from Vancouver's downtown Eastside. They were murdered. Because these sorts of crimes easily lurk under the radar, by the time William Pickton was convicted in 2002, forty-nine women had been killed.

In My Book of Life by Angel, Leavitt's use of image and language puts the reader on the street alongside the fictional sixteen year-old protagonist named Angel, whose pimp, named Call, controls her every move.

Those who hear of girls living like Angel often ask, "How can such things go on?" Leavitt helps us imagine not only what that life might be like, but importantly how the abuse of innocent and unprotected girls might be hidden and even promoted by main stream institutions.

For instance,  Call aims to veil his nefarious sale of young girls by dressing and speaking like a legitimate businessman. After Angel overhears Call talking to a friend she says:

I did not understand what they were talking about,
something trying to get backing
from a member of the taxation committee,
something imposing as entertainment tax
in exchange for movement toward regulation,
something the right to advertise the product
which would normalize business
They could give complimentary services to legislators . . .

If Call calls his exploitation of girls a business, gets government officials involved and pays taxes, he figures his exploitation will go unnoticed, even considered a valuable service.

And who are Call's customers? They are tax paying citizens. Angel's johns include a professor who has Angel read to him from Milton's Paradise Lost. Daddy Dave, a corrupt police officer is another john, and then there's a pediatric dentist. They look legitimate from the outside.

But Angel is smart, and manages to hold on to a glimpse of her ego. She gets herself off drugs and plans an escape. In the end we are left considering all the children like Angel, what their lives are like, but also why it's so hard for them to get away.

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