Thursday, July 10, 2014

Book Review - Hidden Girl: The True Story of a Modern-Day Child Slave, by Shyima Hall

Everyone has a defining moment in his or her life. For some it is the day they get married or have a child. For others it comes when they finally reach a sought-after goal. My life, however, drastically changed course the day my parents sold me into slavery. I was eight years old. 

I don't regularly read nonfiction, but I received this in the mail to review a while back, and am finally getting around to reading it. I do enjoy memoirs, however, and this one tells the true story of Shyima Hall, who was born in Egypt to a large family and eventually sold into slavery.

Official synopsis:
Hidden Girl book review, by Shyima Hall
Shyima Hall was born in Egypt on September 29, 1989, the seventh child of desperately poor parents. When she was eight, her parents sold her into slavery. Shyima then moved two hours away to Egypt’s capitol city of Cairo to live with a wealthy family and serve them eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. When she was ten, her captors moved to Orange County, California, and smuggled Shyima with them. Two years later, an anonymous call from a neighbor brought about the end of Shyima’s servitude—but her journey to true freedom was far from over.

A volunteer at her local police department since she was a teenager, Shyima is passionate about helping to rescue others who are in bondage. Now a US citizen, she regularly speaks out about human trafficking and intends to one day become an immigration officer. In
Hidden Girl, Shyima candidly reveals how she overcame her harrowing circumstances and brings vital awareness to a timely and relevant topic.

Shyima's story may seem especially cruel, but it turns out that slavery is actually common, even in the United States. In her case, her parents sold her to pay her sister's "debt" when they lived in Egypt, and then when the family moved to the U.S., they took her with them into the country illegally.

I haven't read a good memoir in quite some time, and this one definitely stands out. I was glad to hear that today she is in her 20s with a family of her own (a newborn daughter and her boyfriend), but she states throughout the book that her time in slavery (understandably) continues to haunt her; the family who made her their slave knew what they were doing was wrong but didn't care, and took considerable pains to hide her, too, especially when they arrived in the U.S.

I will say that this book was written very "plainly" - Shyima is now a U.S. citizen and knows English, but it was written with another author as well, so I'm wondering how much each of them wrote, or if Shyima just told the other author her story and she (Lisa Wysocky) put the words on paper. This doesn't affect how emotional the story is, for sure, but her story is told simply and without embellishment.

3.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.


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