Book Review of Crying for Tears by Saleem Little Book Review
Crying for Tears: The Sasha Pierce Story
by Saleem Little
3 of 5 Stars

Harrisburg, PA. Oslo, Norway. Gauteg, South Africa.

Question: What do they have in common? Answer: Saleem Little’s novel Crying for Tears: The Sasha Pierce Story. Little effortlessly brings the global human trafficking problem to the consciousness of Urban Lit readers.

The reality of HIV, cocaine and heroin addiction, violence and poverty is strewn throughout this novel. Crying for Tears is a very insightful read, not because of the elements it contains, but for the connections that are made. Little shows the collateral damage that flows through the families of inner-cities ravaged by the crack epidemic. This book captures the overlap that happens when a son could very well find himself supplying his aunt or uncle’s drug habit.

Sasha was a representative of all of the women that, as girls, go the wrong way in life because they are surrounded by so much negativity. Her father died of AIDS from IV drug use. Her mother, also a drug addict, gave her up for adoption. Her grandmother was simply too old to keep up with Sasha as a young girl. Sasha was ready to be a woman in a fast-paced world full of all the wrong choices for options.

Amina’s story start in her native South Africa. In her mid-teens, she had to plan and execute the things necessary for her family’s survival in a small, desolate village. Her parents were wiped away by the AIDS plague. Her younger siblings faced being kidnapped and sold at a moment’s notice.

Suckered into the sex trade by a young woman from her village, Amina was indoctrinated into a life of terror in Oslo, Norway, where prostitution is legal. Quoting Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Amina recounted the numbing activity of being a prostitute. Amina was a prisoner. Amina was a slave in the purest sense of the concept – commoditized with no rights to the profits.

When Amina was thrust into Sasha’s care in a hotel in Oslo, Sasha pulled Amina out of the soul-shattering life as a sex slave. Sasha showed Amina all of the love and affection that Sasha herself wanted and needed as a child of the same age. How did Sasha get from Pennsylvania to Oslo? You have to read to find out…

The effect of extreme poverty is devastating, much more so to the youth of planet Earth. The stories Amina shared with Sasha are nothing less than horrifying. Usually in Urban Fiction, the glamorization of harshness tends to be used to draw upon the reader’s lust for entertainment. Not in Crying for Tears. Little set out to reach and teach the realities of a world that is bustling right beneath our awareness as we work our jobs and care for our children and dream our dreams.

Little does a remarkable job in bridging the gap between the real plight in the world and what is glamorized in Urban Fiction. Amina’s struggles in her small village outside of Gauteg in South Africa make sense in the context of the exploitation of all of Africa’s resources. Sasha’s poor decisions make sense in the context of the poor choices that were available.

Detractors of poor people usually spout about the lack of work ethic, the squandering of time and other internal issues when speaking about people whose lives hover around the poverty line. The casual reader will not easily be able to victimize the victims of poverty while reading Crying for Tears. Through deft narration and the internal dialogue of the characters, Little injects a healthy dose of education. Readers are forced to look at series of events in instead of singular situations. This is the power of Crying for Tears.

What do I like about Crying for Tears? Obviously the stories of Sasha and Amina and how their lives became intertwined. This is such an enchanting break from what is currently considered popular in Urban Fiction. Plenty of research went into the depiction of the environments these two women came from – all the way down to the dirt and dung floors for Amina and the blood-stained, wooden floors for Sasha. I like the concept of the book’s cover also. I felt like it could have been better executed to better convey the raw emotion of the story.

What don’t I like about Crying for Tears? I think Anthony’s story takes up too much of the middle of Crying for Tears and that Sasha and Amina doesn’t take up enough of the beginning and end of this novel. Anthony is Sasha’s cousin and is close in age to Sasha’a son, Cory. Sasha leaves Cory with her aunt, Denise, while Sasha go to rehab for her heroin addiction.

Where I want to see and know more about what was going on with the two females, I find myself wanting to read less about Anthony. Anthony’s story was definitely compelling. I was not drawn to it because there is potential for a more interesting story between Amina and Sasha.

I also abhor the lack of editing from a critical standpoint. As a reader who enjoys a good, informative story, I can care less about poor sentence structure, incorrect word usage and inconsistency in using the same name for certain characters throughout Crying for Tears. Like I’ve been saying this entire book review: tell me about Sasha and tell me about Amina and I’m satisfied.

As a person who must be critical of this literary document on its own merit, I am obligated to at least mention the editing problems. Just like litter can make a beautiful city less appealing, the editing of this book can be stressful for finicky readers who expect near perfection for tens of thousands of words on end. Litter in the city does not make everyone hate the city, just like beautiful people do not make you love the city.

Simply put, if you have problems with poor editing, you will have problems with the version of the book I read. On the other hand, if you are looking for a great read – a diamond in the rough – Crying for Tears might be worth a read through. Either way, you will definitely learn from this novel by the time you finish it.

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