Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


by Patricia McCormick

About the book:
Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family a in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Her family is desperately poor, but still her life is full of simple pleasures, like raising her black-and-white speckled goat and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons was away all that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. Lakshmi is sold to a brothel and is trapped their by cruelty and cunning, convinced she must stay until her debt is paid. Written in spare and evocative vignettes, this powerful novel renders a world that is unimaginable as it is real, and a girl who not only survives but triumphs.

About the author:
To research Sold, Patricia McCormick traveled to India and Nepal, where she interviewed the women of Calcutta’s red-light district and girls who have been rescued from the sex trade. She is the author of the acclaimed novels Cut and My Brother’s Keeper.

Author interview:

  1. What inspired you to tell this story?
  2. What did your travel to India and Nepal bring to your story?
  3. What were the challenges of bringing Lakshmi’s story to life?
  4. Why did you decide to tell the story in a series of vignettes?
  5. How can we help?

Discussion guide:

  1. What is Lakshmi’s life like in her Nepal mountain village? What events create the need for her to go into the city?
  2. Discuss the chapter titled “Everything I Need to Know.” What do you think of the mandates that Lakshmi will be forced to live under in her village. Compare it to the chapter of the same title that appears later in the city. How does it represent all the changes in her life?
  3. Did you suspect bad intentions with the “auntie” and “uncle” who escorted Lakshmi? Why do you think Lakshmi herself did not hold any? What does this show you about her character?
  4. What things does she wonder about on her journey? What ordinary objects fascinate her? How does this innocence help seal her fate?

  1. How does Mumtaz gain control over Lakshmi? What tactics does she use to own her both physically and emotionally? What punishment does she exact on girls who disobey or betray her?

  1. Describe the other girls and women in the brothel. How do they accept or rail against their lives there? What does Lakshmi learn from them? In the end, what happens to them?

  1. For the festival of brothers and sisters, Harish gives Lakshmi a new pencil. This small act of kindness undoes her. Why do you think this “undoes” her? How do others reach out to help each other at the brothel?

  1. What does despair look like? How does Lakshmi prevent her own despair from destroying her hope? Is it destroyed in others? How?

  1. What happens when Monica leaves the brothel to return to the family she has supported? Do you think Lakshmi’s own Ama would do the same upon her return? What about her stepfather? What makes you think so or not?

  1. What was the most disturbing part of this story for you? What facts crawled under your skin and haunt you? Do you think there is anything you can do to help? What?


Language Arts:

Interview with activist and filmmaker Ruchira Gupta, The Selling of Innocents, a documentary about the market of women into the sex trade.

Ruchira Gupta’s non-profit organization which hopes to end the trafficking of women and children.

Write a letter to your senator, congressperson or other political figure to ask for their help in preventing the sex trade from continuing. Demand that funds to support the children and women who are rescued from the industry be allocated immediately.

Hold a fundraiser for Apne Aap. It can be of any form you prefer- bake sale, car wash, walk-a-thon, read-a-thon, etc. Break into small groups and compete to see whose idea nets the most donations. Graph your results and discuss which strategies were most successful.

Create a piece of art inspired by the book. The form- sculpture, paint, music, etc. is entirely up to you but explain your choices in a brief journal.

Social Studies:
Research the issues from the novel and create a poster, website or pamphlet about what you learned. Be sure to include information on how those who are interested can get involved.