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Highway to Hell: The Road Where Childhoods Are Stolen Paperback – October 8, 2013
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"This is a truly important book." -- Steve Chalke "Compelling and poignant reportage that painstakingly exposes Brazil's darkest secret.Matt Roper is that rare journalist who didn't turn his back on the trauma and misery he witnessed for the adrenaline rush of the next deadline. In parts heart-breaking, in others uplifting, this is a story that needs to be told." -- Oliver Harvey * The Sun * "Few journalists remain this committed to exposing an issue. Once you get your headlines it is all too easy to move on to the next big expose. Not only is this a dark side of Brazil that Matt continues to highlight with passion, but his writing takes you so vividly into children's' lives. You are unable to stop thinking about them. Few books can do that." -- Chris Rogers * BBC Panorama *
About the Author
Matt Roper is the author of Street Girls and Remember Me, Rescue Me. He spent eight years with the >i>Daily Mirror as a journalist. He and his Brazilian wife now live and work in Brazil. Matt speaks fluent Portuguese.
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We must change this situation. Share this book. Allow your heart to be broken to the things that break these little children...Let's make a difference!
There is a picture postcard image of Brazil, sun, sea, and samba, that most foreigners only ever see. But there is a very different Brazil just a few blocks away, a world of child prostitution along BR-116, the “highway to hell.”
Matt Roper, a successful journalist at the Daily Mirror, received an email from Dean Brody, a Canadian country music star. Brody had just read a book Roper had written years before about prostitution in Brazil. The two decided to travel along Brazil's BR-116. What they found was an epidemic of child prostitution.
This book is overwhelming. The government overlooks child prostitution because it would reduce tourist income. Parents often sell their children into prostitution as a source of income. Many of the girls start young, at age ten, as it is something their mother and grandmother did. The girls think there is something wrong with them if they do not have a sexually active life by the age of twelve. They are part of a warped culture where girls think that selling their body for sex is cool. Brazil's federal highway police recently identified 272 places along BR-116 where underage girls are known to be sold for sex. That means for the BR-116 length of 2,819 miles, there are children being sold for sex about every ten miles. Roper writes, “It was an epidemic of child prostitution infecting every single town and village, right down to the smallest community.” (163) As one child councillor told them, “Child prostitution's just part of life here. People who have grown up here don't see it like you and I do, even the Christians. Most people have stopped seeing it at all.” (168) Hundreds of girls are forced into the sex trade by their own families. Mothers swap their daughters for a bag of beans or a packet of cigarettes. Girls aged twelve and thirteen are dying of AIDS. The councillor said girls she had cared for one day climbed into a truck along BR-116 never to return. (23)
Roper and Brody decided to reach out to one community, Medina, and the young girls there selling themselves to prostitution. They bought a house that had a room large enough for a dance studio. They painted it pink. Meninadanca was born. Now, in this one community, there is a welcoming place where girls can find a different life. Their vision is to replicate what they have done in Medina in other towns along the BR-116. They are determined to press forward until child prostitution is no longer tolerated in Brazil.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel for the purpose of this independent and honest review.
I’m also ashamed to admit that there is a part of me that would rather keep it that way. The unimaginable things that occurred and were retold by Roper are things that I would rather not know. But the bottom line is that they do happen and luckily there are people like Matt Roper and Dean Brody that find it unacceptable and take the time to do something about it.
Roper and Dean travel along a Brazilian Highway BR-116 and re-tell the stories of all the girls that they meet along the way. It’s shocking to me that prostitution happens with girls that aren’t even in their teens yet. It’s truly the ugliest, darkest side of human nature and it really broke my heart to read this story. But it also inspired me to learn that there are people that will uproot their entire lives to make a difference in the lives of strangers.
Roper and Dean make it their mission in life to get these girls off the streets and help bring change. It’s not without challenges and heartbreak and roadblocks along the way. But the devil uses those things to stop people from bringing about the necessary changes.
Having a daughter, I can’t even imagine these kinds of horrific things happening to her and I sometimes forget how blessed I am to live where we live. The fact that these girls are subjected to this lifestyle and even pushed into it by their own mothers to help survive is disgusting and heartbreaking.
Highway to Hell is one of those books that leaves you saddened, yet inspired and forever changed.