Painting With Words: Sold

c_soldPatricia McCormick is a painter. Not literally, but she might as well be given the way she writes. Her vivid imagery and poetic prose paired with her short vignettes make Sold a must-read.

Somehow, Patricia makes the heavy subject of sexual slavery both approachable and manageable. Whereas many of my heavier books on women’s rights or international affairs sit dormant in my classroom library, Sold has made it through many hands. I believe there are multiple reasons for this: first, Sold isn’t intimidating in length or size. It feels manageable for many students. Second, Sold is written in short vignettes with wide spacing between the lines. Students can find themselves ten or twenty pages into the book with minimal effort.

Furthermore, the book lends itself to close reading and craft study. Each vignette is chock full of exceptional writing as Patricia McCormick plays with diction, descriptions, repetition, and a wide variety of craft marks. In turn, I can’t pick only one example, so bear with me as I walk you through two of the many passages with which I am obsessed:

Everyday, students walk into my classroom burdened by mammoth backpacks and equally sized worries. It’s tough to be a teenager, which is why I love the vignette “What I Carry.” I hope to use this as a quickwrite to find out what students carry with them throughout the

One of the many passages I have photocopied and dissected in my writer's notebook.

One of the many passages I have photocopied and dissected in my writer’s notebook.



Inside the bundle Ama packed for me are:

my bowl,

my hairbrush,

the notebook my teacher gave me for being the number one

girl in school,

and my bedroll.

Inside my head I carry

my baby goat,

my baby brother,

my ama’s face,

our family’s future.

My bundle is light.

My burden is heavy.

In the second passage, “Between Twilights,” I love McCormick’s use of sensory details. This is an excellent passage to model the concept of “show don’t tell” in writing.


Sometimes, between the twilights.

I unwrap my bundle from home

and bury my face in the fabric of my old skirt.

I inhale deeply,

drinking in the scent of mountain sunshine,

a warmth that smells of freshly turned soil and clean laundry

baking in the sun.

I breathe in a cool Himalayan breeze,

and the woodsy tang of a cooking fire,

a smell that crackles with the promise of warm tea

and fresh roti.

Then I can get by.

Until the next twilight.

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3 thoughts on “Painting With Words: Sold

  1. […] with teenagers, the more I value the use of that essential “white space.” I love book talking Patricia McCormick’s Sold or Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; despite their complex and emotional […]


  2. Erika B. October 3, 2014 at 12:58 pm Reply

    I love this piece of literature…I, and students, devour(ed) it in days…if even that long! Thank you for your connection between the vignettes and our students’ lives…What do they carry with them? Hmmm, I wonder…I’ll have to ask!

    Also, Patricia McCormick co-authors the Young Adult (YA) version of I Am Malala…a must read!!! She is quite the woman/author on a mission to spread the awareness supporting females nationwide in obtaining education…and foundational rights.


  3. Sheridan October 2, 2014 at 7:07 am Reply

    Thanks for a wonderful way to approach a text study. I just finish A Thousand Splendid Suns with AP Literature and will use this idea as a comparison piece.


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