A must-read, important book: Out of The Cages by Penny Jaye
Here's a book I really want to tell you about.
First, it's important.
Second, it's brave-hearted.
Third, I've always wanted to have a quote from Melinda Tankard Reist on my blog, because basically she's awesome and does amazing work for women and girls, and she has great things to say about this book.
(There's also, for number four, the fact that a friend of mine wrote it, but even though she's pretty amazing, I'm going to leave that by the wayside, because this blog is all about the book.)
Here is it: Out of the Cages.
Fifteen-year-old Meena has given up all hope of ever escaping the brothel.
For three years she’s locked away her memories – of home, of her childhood friend, of what it means to hope. But when a botched police raid offers her a chance at freedom, Meena must face the truth about her past.
As she attempts to piece her life back together, the memories she has buried deep inside begin to resurface. Meena realises escaping the brothel is only the beginning of what it means to be free.
Can she face the truth in her memories? Can she return to Nepal if it means returning alone? Or will she face the red-light district one last time? Sometimes it’s ourselves we need to trust again…
I wanted to interview the author, Penny Jaye, because I think this is a story that needs to be widely read and shared. Penny herself grew up in a variety of cross cultural locations and now lives in western Sydney, with her family. She also writes under the name Penny Reeve (and she does a pretty awesome school author visit.) She kindly agreed to answer some questions for me.
So, Penny, how did this story get its start?
In 2001, my husband, my one year old daughter and I moved from Australia to live in Nepal doing aid work. We set up home in Pokhara, a city some 6 hours drive west of Kathmandu, and it was while we were living there that I began researching for the story that eventually became Out of the Cages.
Tell us what it's about. And why human trafficking?
Out of the Cages is the story of Meena and Putali, two young Nepali girls who have been trafficked into the brothels of Mumbai, and about the one that escapes.
Human trafficking isn’t a unique phenomenon for Nepal, but as I began researching I found that it was the story of young Nepali girls being trafficked across the border into India that I continued to hear about. Each year thousands of young women and girls are trafficked and sold into slavery in the brothels of India. They are prized for their fair complexions and exotic looks, and lured on promises of better futures or even love. Trafficking, wherever it occurs, preys on the vulnerable.
You haven't just focused on her experience in the brothel... you've gone further than that?
It wasn’t so much the trafficking experience I wanted to write about when I told Meena’s story. What I really wanted to explore was how someone so young, who once had such hope and life, might survive years of trauma and then face the prospect of returning home. What does freedom feel like if you’ve forgotten how to feel? Can we learn to hope again – or trust again - when we’ve been taught it doesn’t exist? And friendship – what happens to friendship when the truth about the past is hard to unravel?
It sounds like a hard book to bring to life. It would be pretty emotional to write, yes?
Writing Out of the Cages was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It was challenging in terms of content – there were certain scenes I didn’t want to write – but it was also challenging because of the scope of the project; the various writes and rewrites it involved. I remember a stage when I knew I had to put the true stories I had heard and read about aside and decide to write the story my characters wanted to tell. I had to trust them to tell the truth about the real life experiences they were representing. And somehow it worked. Although the narrative is entirely fictional, it’s firmly grounded in the true stories of survivors.
If you had to sum up the book in one sentence, what would it be?
Out of the Cages isn’t just a novel about modern day slavery. It’s also a story about friendship; about the courage to heal and to hope despite the pain of the past.
Here's what people are saying about it (ie. this is the point I get to include amazing Melinda Tankard Reist's name in this blog post.) I'd love to hear what you think too. Let me know if you grab a copy and read it. I'm sure Penny would appreciate an online review too.
Where to get Out of the Cages
Rhiza Edge website - http://www.rhizaedge.com.au/out-of-the-cages