Although The Kitchen House takes place on a tobacco plantation in Virginia during the era of slavery, it was more about challenging traditional understandings of what constitutes a family. Lavinia is only seven years old when both of her parents die, her brother is sold away, and she is brought to the Pyke’s plantation to work as a servant in the kitchen. She is clearly different from the rest of Captain Pyke’s “properties.” She’s a white girl from Ireland with fiery red hair and freckles on her face. However, throughout her childhood and even into young adulthood, Lavinia remain largely oblivious to the different social positions of whites and blacks. While her innocent ignorance enables her to regard Captain Pyke’s slaves as her own family, it also proves to be a double-edged sword.
Overall, I highly recommend this book as a must read. You will not be disappointed by how well the characters and their relationships with one another are developed. You may even find yourself thinking in the dialect used by some of the characters!
Within the first few pages, I was hooked. Completely attached to Lakshmi, a thirteen year old country girl from Nepal. I feared for her when she was on her way to Calcutta, though she herself was oblivious of her situation. The whole time she fantasizes about the city with gold roofs; fantasizes about the luxuries her family can now enjoy with the money she earns as a maid. When Lakshmi arrives at the “Happiness House” and sees girls “wearing dresses of ever color,” adorned with flashy jewelry, eyes painted “with black crayon,” and lips “like red chilis,” I wanted to tell her that this is not where movie stars live.
A short fictive novel based on extensive research and true experiences, Sold is a glimpse into the Indian sex trade. You may find yourself cringing with Lakshmi, crumbling the book with hatred, when the fish-lips man becomes her first customer. You may find yourself shouting at the book, trying to get Lakshmi to understand that the American man is not trying to “trick you and shame you and make you walk naked in public.” No, he is your route to freedom. You will want to nudge her, encourage her to follow him.
Overall, this is truly a book worth reading. Although it did leave me with the devastating thought of, “if this is a toned down version of reality, than how much more cruel is reality for these girls?”