Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

18 April 2010

Book Review: Karma by Nancy Deville

I didn't read the entire book...I couldn't. Karma by Nancy Deville is a detailed fictional account of an American doctor who is kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery. I was able to read thru Dr. Meredith Fitzgerald's breaking and transfer from Istanbul to Mumbai and then I had to skip chapters to see if Meredith was saved. When I saw detailed, I mean detailed.

Human trafficking is not a topic that I feel knowledgeable enough to speak about, but then again, I'm fairly certain I know more than the average person about the shear magnitude of the problem. And thus I think that added to my overwhelming feeling while reading the book. Perhaps someone unfamiliar with the problem might continue to read while thinking "I don't believe this." I kept reading thinking, "I know this, why am I reading this?"

The storytelling was great and too real for me.

My only qualm with the book is that I felt that it was stereotypical to set a story like this in Turkey and India. Human trafficking happens everywhere, including here in Chicago. Why not elsewhere? Deville addresses this at the conclusion of the book by telling readers that the story could happen anywhere. Was that enough for me? I'm still not sure.

But I can't say that I wasn't sucked into this book. I carried it around one weekend so much that my husband made a comment. Now, I read a lot and he rarely comments on how engulfed I am with a book.

If you do decide to pick it up, I ask you to do so at an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

The book will break your heart, but it also will be memorable. But I really hope it also moves you to learn more about human trafficking.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received was the copy of the book.

4 comments:

This reminds me of that horribly racist film Taken. Given that very few internationally trafficked women are American, I'm bothered by storylines that have American white women as the characters audiences are supposed to identify with because it presupposes that readers won't identify with the women (mainly from Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America) who are actually being trafficked. The author even acknowledges this was a conscious choice for the main character that isn't representative of reality, which I'm conflicted about b/c I'm annoyed at the bias of the decision yet glad she's able to admit there is a bias. Also, it seems from the Amazon description, that she's not even trafficked for sex, but for being a doctor, which makes the stated intention of the book to give readers "an up close and personal experience with what happens to millions of women and children across the globe today" disingenuous. Yet another problem is the title of the book, which so far as I can tell is unrelated to the content of the book save for the 'exotic' locations--a problem that is even more reinforced by the book trailer. I'm glad you were engaged with the topic, but I wouldn't give this writer's perspective much credence.

Thank you for your review of my novel Karma!

I'm going to be speaking tomorrow at the Harvard Club in Boston if you or any of your readers are in this area (see my FB page www.nancydeville.com for the time and address).

One topic I will cover is why I chose Karma for a title. My emotional involvement in this topic drove my choice of title. First learning that sex slaves are categorized as prostitutes, that they suffer from PTSD (and the accompanying self blame) and finally that in many countries of the world they are condemned by the misinterpretation of Karma from its Hindu roots. My involvement in my character Meredith led me to a greater understanding of the true meaning of Karma, which she also discovers.

I would love to see you tomorrow night. Om Shanti, Nancy Deville

FR: I'm torn between being annoyed at the author for using a non-representative character or the public who might not pick up the novel if it was truly representative. I like to call it the Oprah effect. She does a lot of feminist things, but stays just shy of being truly representative. Ya know what I mean?


Nancy: Thanks for commenting! As you can see, your book is still making me think.

V: Unfortunately (or fortunately?), I do know what you mean.

N: Somehow I doubt your main character discovers the "true" meaning of Karma (or at least not in a way that is represented in this book), as Karma is often misunderstood and misrepresented by Westerners--much more than by actual Hindus, an assertion that is offensive in itself as they are the gatekeepers of the dynamic meanings of their own faith--who have but a cursory understanding of Hindu philosophy and it historical positioning throughout time.