Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction
Book Jacket Synopsis: “In the summer of 1991 I was a normal kid. I did normal things. I had friends and a mother who loved me. I was just like you. Until the day my life was stolen. For eighteen years I was a prisoner. I was an object for someone to use and abuse. For eighteen years I was not allowed to speak my own name. I became a mother and was forced to be a sister. For eighteen years I survived an impossible situation. On August 26, 2009, I took my name back. My name is Jaycee Lee Dugard. I don’t think of myself as a victim. I survived. A Stolen Life is my story – in my own words, in my own way, exactly as I remember it.”
Review: Just because a book is hard to read does not mean that it shouldn’t be read. That is what I kept telling myself throughout A Stolen Life. Growing up, I was familiar with the basics of Jaycee’s story, in the same way that I was familiar with the stories of Elizabeth Smart and Elisabeth Fritzl. But reading about the horrors she suffered at the hands of Phillip and Nancy Garrido, in her own words, is a very different experience than reading news articles or listening to television recaps. In spite of these horrors, the real undercurrent of A Stolen Life is Jaycee’s resilience and hope.
“I am not sure how I did endure all that I did. I ask myself less and less every day.”
Her deep affection for her children, coupled with a lifelong love of animals, provides the reader with some hints of how she was able to endure in unthinkable conditions. I can’t help but wonder, after finishing this book, how many other missing children are living in similar situations. Jaycee’s stepfather witnessed her abduction, and she was still missing for 18 years. It’s truly terrifying.
Reason for Ban/Challenge: In 2014, A Stolen Life was removed from seventh-grade classroom libraries in the Northview Michigan public school system after parents of a student who had chosen the book for elective reading learned of its content. Acknowledging that the book could be beneficial to students who had experienced abuse, the superintendent agreed to keep the book in eighth-grade classroom libraries, but instated a case-by-case approval system for any student interested in the book. As I’ve stated in the past, I don’t believe in censoring what children can read, especially in public schools. That being said, Jaycee’s story is understandably horrifying and could have a lasting impact on young readers (I know it has had one on me); if young individuals do want to read A Stolen Life, I hope that parents and teachers are willing to engage in honest discussions about its content
Rating: As I mentioned in my review of HD66: Search for a Cure or a Killer?, I recently encountered two books that (for different reasons) I did not want to rate. HD66 was the first book and A Stolen Life is the second. The literary merit of A Stolen Life is, in my opinion, inseparable from Jaycee’s horrific experiences, and I am unwilling to even consider “rating” either.