The Kid: Harrowing and Raw

BlogHer Review

When I began reading The Kid by Sapphire, I felt as if I'd been grabbed by the throat and thrown into a maelstrom of confusion and fear.

The writing style was disconcerting at first. I was swept along in a stream-of-consciousness, not sure at times if Abdul was dreaming or awake. It took me a chapter or so to adjust to the flow, similar to the way I sometimes 'tune' my hearing to follow an unfamiliar accent or dialect. That was when I realized that it didn't matter whether he dreaming or not -- this was the story of his reality, and it was harsh, disturbing, and heartbreaking.

Once I found my groove following the narrative style, I was impressed by the sense of having an exclusive look into Abdul's personal journey; I had a brutally honest understanding of how this young boy, and eventually young man, viewed his chaotic and oftentimes lonely world. Abdul’s tenacity in the face of adversity was the theme that kept me reading. It was this quality in him that encouraged me to continue through the very difficult passages that wove together the complex tale of an abused child making his way through horrific circumstances.

Losing my mother and only parent is not an experience I had to endure as a child but Sapphire gave me a glimpse into that distressing reality. From beginning to end I ached for this confused and troubled boy. I was so disturbed by the utterly heart-wrenching abuse Abdul experienced at the hands of the foster care system, that I (typically a “sit-down-and-read-til-I’m-done” kind of reader) could only read the first third of the book in ten to fifteen page increments. Particularly hard-hitting was the emotional fallout resulting from the sexual abuse perpetrated by the priests running the Catholic orphanage in which Abdul spends several years -- years that shape his life and perspective in utterly tragic ways.

The only bright spot in his life is his drive to dance. Abdul follows his passion at any and all costs. Dancing is what makes his life worth living, and he finds ways to ensure that he can continue. It is this drive that gave me hope for his future as his story unfolded before me. A testament to the power of the human spirit, against all odds, he perseveres to do the only thing in the world from which he gleans truly positive feedback and a stronger sense of self. Consequently, I was in tears when the emotional toll of his upbringing returns him to an entirely new circumstance of abuse and abject fear in the third and final section of the book.

The harrowing and raw emotions that Sapphire elicited in me were sometimes difficult to navigate. But they were not nearly as challenging as I imagine it would be to live in a similar situation. Most difficult for me to come to grips with is the fact that there are children today -- right now -- who are living the same nightmare through which Abdul made his way. It is for this reason that I wholeheartedly recommend reading The Kid.

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