Damaged by Kia DuPree

Damaged by Kia DuPree is an unapologetic view of Washington D.C. street life that many teens fall victim to.  The story is told through the eyes of Camille Logan, a young girl who is abandoned by her mother and placed in the foster care system.  On the outside the Brinkley’s, her foster parents, provide a normal and loving home.  Behind closed doors, Mr. Brinkley mentally and sexually abuses Camille leaving her to suffer in silence.

The fifteen year old's prayers are answered when she meets Chu, a local teenage drug dealer. Camille feels that she has finally found true love and security.  When Chu is murdered in a drug deal gone wrong, her world falls apart.  Desperate to survive on the streets and stay out of the foster care system, Camille reluctantly connects with Nut, the sadistic pimp.  Nut physically abuses Camille and inflicts fear to keep her scared and loyal.   Camille becomes numb and learns to rely on her street smarts to survive.  Finally one day, she makes a tough decision: become a victim of the streets or work toward making a better life for herself.   

Damaged is a not an easy read.  Like PUSH by Sapphire, Damaged tackles the subjects of molestation, desperation and the spirit of survival.  It’s graphic and gives the reader a look into the lives of characters that one may not normally cross paths with.   Though this book has an adult classification, it can be circulated to 11th-12th grade students in high school libraries for the following reasons: 

  • Some of the teens serviced in schools across this country quietly experience the same abuse and struggle of the protagonist Camille.   
  • The book can be used by school Librarians, Counselors and Social Workers to spark discussion and better service at-risk students that are in crisis.  The author provides a readers group guide for discussion at the end of the story.
  • The themes presented in Damaged are universal and affect teens in urban city dwellings and rural America.  Please note:  although sexual victimizations may be unspoken and unreported, it does not mean that they are not occurring in rural America.  (1)

Author, Kia DuPree
DuPree's gift as a writer is displayed through her effective use of dialogue.  Her ability to describe the raw emotions of the characters as they try to survive grimy street life is described vividly.  I felt the most heartbreaking part of the story was when Camille sees her mother for the first time in several years.  The exchange between mother and child is painful.  Though unspoken through dialogue, DuPree effectively describes to the reader how street life can capture and destroy lives. 

This past summer, I had the opportunity to serve on an Urban Fiction panel discussion with DuPree.   I found her to be insightful and committed to the Street Lit. genre by providing stories that accurately reflect the lives of young people in neighborhoods we have forgotten.  (2) Though the story ended abruptly, I hope DuPree will write a sequel to Damaged.  It would be very interesting to see how Camille continues to work toward making a better life for herself and help prevent other girls from falling victim to life in the street.   

(1) Lewis, Sharon, Unspoken Crimes:  Sexual assault in rural America.  National Sexual Violence Resource Center A Project of the Pennsylvania Coalition against Rape.  2003. http://www.nsvrc.org/_cms/fileUpload/rural.pdf

(2) PHAT Fiction Panel Audio.   Public Library Association, July, 2010.

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