Sapphire's Resilient Child [SPOILERS]

BlogHer Review
The resilient child has a new avatar in Abdul, the main character in Sapphire's The Kid. Abdul is creating himself without any guidance, starting as we meet him at his mother's funeral,9 years old, his life torn away without much of an explanation. As honest and gritty as reality, The Kid misses no opportunity to impress the reader with the horror of life as a parent-less child. The orphan's clothes are tossed into a garbage bag for the trip to his foster home. His "stuff" -- cd's, books, winter parka -- is gone forever. His education is truncated, the teachers who encouraged him drop from his life like dandruff flakes. He encounters nary a faithful or honest or helpful grown-up on his way, and yet he continues to bounce back with determination. He is a resilient child.

But he is very much a child, and the brilliance of Sapphire's technique is that this fact sits front and center on each and every page. This is the story of a smart little boy with a majestic talent and absolutely no support. He has no history, no money, no friends, no family. He is tortured and abused and discarded and insulted and ignored and through it all Sapphire tells the tale, not with the jaded eye of an adult, but via the damaged soul of a kid.

Like most kids, Abdul starts out willing to believe the adults in his life. Unfortunately, he is quickly disabused of the notion that there is any help at all for him in this world. He learns within hours of his mother's burial that he is no longer safe or protected. He is all that he has left. It'a a good thing that he likes himself.

And that, I think, is what enabled me to read all 374 pages of this raw and awful tale. Abdul is not a whiner. Abdul is not a victim. He knows that he is doing the best he can. Just ask him about his sexuality -- he's not "a faggot" although his life is filled with homosexual sexual encounters. He didn't abuse other children; in his eyes they loved him. He did what he had to do, and he survived.

It is easier to be a throw-away when you are 19 than when you are 9, and Abdul's life does become marginally less stressful as he ages. I'm not sure I could have finished the book had he not had some success, and I think that Sapphire knew that. But she doesn't abandon her themes, and loss and disappointment follow Abdul like gum on the soles of his shoes.

The last section, Dirty, is allegorical, lyrical, frightening and, ultimately, redemptive. We know as little about what is happening in Abdul's life as he does, and we are only marginally clearer by the last exhortation he receives from the only adult in the entire book who speaks honestly to him.

It doesn't matter. The facts of his future will be the facts. Abdul will find a way to survive. It's what a resilient child does. I'm so very glad that I have that to take away from this haunting book.

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