British-born Rachel Lloyd dropped out of school at 13 to support her single alcoholic mother. With little opportunity, she soon found herself spiraling into a life of torment and abuse as a sexually exploited girl. Vulnerable yet tough, Rachel broke free of the street and her pimp thanks to help of a local church. But that was just the beginning…Three years later, Rachel arrived in America as a missionary working with adult women in the sex industry. As she began to meet teenage girls who shared her experiences, she decided to found her own non profit,GEMS-Girls Educational and Mentoring Services- on her kitchen table to meet the needs of girls who were shunned by society. Along the way she earned her GED and won a full scholarship to college and a graduate program. Today, Lloyd is the founder and director of GEMS in Harlem, one of the most ground-breaking nonprofit organizations in the U.S. In stunning detail and with cinematic style, Lloyd tells her life story – a harrowing and inspirational tale of suffering, recovery, discovery, and nobility. She reveals the dark, secretive world of her past with clarity, understanding, humanity, and psychological insight. A fierce and passionate crusader, Lloyd explains the factors-including, addiction, abuse, poverty-that lead so many vulnerable young women into sexual exploitation. She explains the seduction of pimps and johns, the biases of cops, the racial stereotyping, the sexism of the courts. And she lovingly talks about her successes, sharing stories of her girls whose lives she has helped. It is these small victories which have healed her wounds and made her whole. Deeply moving, authentic and brave, “Girls Like Us” is a remarkable, deeply moving, and utterly unforgettable memoir.

This book gave me such a reaction, it took me forever to finish it. This is an emotional, raw, realistic in your face read. I have learned more about commercially exploited girls than I wanted to, however should know. This isn’t just a third world country situation. This is a HUGE activity here in the US and it can happen to any girl.

The following are just a few things that made me scream:

  1. Those of us that watch Law & Order:SVU have grown to love Ice-T. At least I like his character. We know him from his rap and player days and he seems to have really turned his life around and now stars in a great show with an important topic. However, in this book the author points out how each year he still attends the Player’s Ball.  An award show that gives merits to the highest players and pimps of that year. Which in and of itself is bothersome. But to see him on a show playing a cop that trying to put away pimps and  help assaulted girls, it throws you for a loop.
  2. I understand the author is African American, and I understand that sadly many of the expolited children are African American.  I also understand that the media tends to pay attention to white mising children more often due to “appeal”.  However, there were certain sections of the book where I felt as if white oppressed girls were brushed off to the side.  The book is supposed to deal with girls, not only Latino and African American girls. While there is a distinction in numbers, I dind’t want the book to be that one sided.

Taking those gripes aside – and they really are minor- , I really enjoyed this book. Rachel goes from giving us statistics of the sex trade industry, to stories about girls she has helped to stories about her own incidents in “the life”. The story was wonderfully written and brought some staggering facts to the forefront. I kind of hate to say it, but I think every parent should read this book. While most girls that are “lured” or “taken” in to that life are vulnurable in that time of their lives, each young girl goes through that period at some point, and that is all the pimps are looking for. Be ready when you pick this book up. It doesn’t sugar coat a thing. It says it like it should be said.

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