“All that is left of me is ink.”
–Batuk, in James A. Levine’s The Blue Notebook
Title: The Blue Notebook // Author: James A. Levine // Publisher: Spiegel & Grau // Pub Date: July 2009
Besides reading a steady stream of British Romantic verse (necessary, I justify, for my recent Wordsworth adventure), I’ve also managed to squeeze in a few new fiction and nonfiction books. One I’d describe as a crushing-moving-beautiful-chilling story. It’s Dr. James A. Levine’s The Blue Notebook. This is a first book for Levine, who is also a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, a scientific advisor to the US Gov, and a topical expert who is routinely interviewed for TV shows, magazines, and newspapers. Let’s just say this guy’s smart and talented. And as a writer, he’s proven that he’s no fish out of water. In The Blue Notebook, Levine tells the story of a fifteen-year-old girl named Batuk, who is taken from rural India by her own father and sold into a life of sexual slavery in Mumbai. Batuk writes her story in a notebook as she is held captive in Mumbai’s “Street of Cages,” and Levine manages to channel her words so successfully that the voice of The Blue Notebook is—powerfully and hauntingly—her own.
The subject matter of this book is difficult and upsetting, but Levine shows great courage in telling it. While once touring the slums of Mumbai with a UN officer and a policeman, Levine witnessed first-hand the atrocities of child prostitution and saw one young girl—the inspiration for this story—writing in a notebook. The Blue Notebook will shock those who are unaware of this life, and others will struggle under the emotional weight of it. But this is a story that needs to be told until those like Levine’s Batuk are no longer in a position to tell it.
Dr. Levine is donating all of the US proceeds from The Blue Notebook to the international and national centers for missing and exploited children.
To read my less chatty and more in-depth review of The Blue Notebook on the About.com Contemporary Literature site, click here.
Photo credit: Spiegel & Grau.