Bill McKeen's Book Blog: Andre Dubus III's memoir Townie, Julian Sher's sex trafficking exposé Somebody's Daughter

[image-1]They might also have you taking action.

Sher is a distinguished journalist who’s done much of his work on exploited children. Earlier, he published Caught in the Web, about efforts to protect children from online predators.

In Somebody's Daughter, Sher deals with sex trafficking and the fact that most of the young women caught in this web are not from Bangkok or Singapore; they're from Anytown, U.S.A.

Sher tells a number of stories of how these young women are found and forced to endure the life of a prostitute. There are also heroic characters in the book -- those who fight to stop the abuse and exploitation. Yet more often than not, there are failures.

And that's where Somebody's Daughter serves as a call to action. Instead of reading the next James Patterson or John Grisham novel, maybe your book club ought to read Somebody's Daughter -- then get up to do something.

In fact, to get you started, here's a link from Sher's website about ways you can help:

COMING TO INKWOOD: Jon Jefferson, one half of of a writing team known as Jefferson Bass, will appear at Inkwood, 216 S. Armenia, Tampa, on Thurs., March 24, at 7 p.m. to discuss the latest Bass book, The Bone Yard. This novel is of particular interest to Floridians, as it deals with a reform school for boys. St. Petersburg Times reporter Ben Montgomery will moderate Jefferson's appearance. Montgomery's St. Petersburg Times series exposed the horrific history of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys near Marianna, in the Panhandle.

COMING TO HASLAM'S: This Saturday, Tampa Bay author Ian Vasquez will be signing his new novel Mr. Hooligan at Haslam's Book Store, 2025 Central Ave., in St. Petersburg. On Saturday, April 2, another local author,  Lori Roy, will be signing her new novel, Bent Road. Both signings are at 3 p.m.

William McKeen chairs the journalism department at Boston University and is the author of several books, including the acclaimed Hunter S. Thompson biography Outlaw Journalist, available in paperback. Mile Marker Zero, his book about Key West, will be published in October.

Last time we heard from Andre Dubus III, he was taking the tawdriness of a Sarasota strip club and turning it into great art.

That was The Garden of Last Days, a novel by Dubus (rhymes with caboose) speculating on what the 9-11 hijackers did in the last days before flying their planes into the twin towers.

That novel joined the already Oprah-sized House of Sand and Fog to put Dubus on the center stage of young American novelists.

Now, with Townie (W.W. Norton, $25.95), Dubus turns to memoir to  tell the story of his early years.

The “III” after his name might tell you the something. This Dubus is the latest in a literary line. His father was a renowned essayist and short-story writer, and part of Townie is about the son’s great love and admiration for his father.

But it’s also the story of a man who leaves his family, sentencing them to a life of struggle while he accepts the fame and accolades that come with being recognized as a Great American Writer.

With a minimum of whining but a maximum of insight, Dubus takes us through the struggles of adolescence (hard enough as it is) with a strong-willed and determined mother who raised four children against enormous odds – including the fact that her children loved intensely the man who had broken her heart.

And son does love father. As the absent parent, he was, at times, the easiest to love. Mother, who dealt with the day-to-day mundanities and dramas, was the one who had it tough. Dubus learns that loving one is not betraying the other, and coming out of a divorce with such wisdom should be more common.

This book requires no familiarity with the work of either Dubus. It’s a great and heartbreaking story of a shattered family and how each member struggles to survive. Luckily for Dubus, there was writing. It was, as H.L. Mencken said of his craft, "a way out."

NOBODY’S CHILD: Dubus demonstrates how difficult adolescence can be. But the lives of the young women in Somebody’s Daughter (Chicago Review Press, $24.95) by Julian Sher will have you weeping. The world Sher describes goes far beyond the tragic.

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