Stolen Life (Dugard)

A Stolen Life: A Memoir
Jaycee Dugard, 2011
Simon & Schuster
288 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781451629187

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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—May 3, 1980
Raised —South Lake Tahoe, California, USA
Education—elementary school
Currently—lives in Northern California

The kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard occurred on June 10, 1991, when she was 11 years old. Dugard was abducted from a school bus stop within sight of her home in South Lake Tahoe, California. Searches began immediately after the kidnapping, but no reliable leads were generated. She remained missing for more than 18 years.

On August 25, 2009, convicted sex offender Phillip Craig Garrido visited the campus of UC Berkeley accompanied by two young girls. Their unusual behavior there sparked an investigation that led to his bringing the two girls to a parole office on August 26, accompanied by a woman who was then identified as Dugard.

Garrido, 58, and his wife Nancy Garrido, 54, of Antioch, California, were arrested for kidnapping and other charges; they pleaded guilty on April 28, 2011 to Dugard's kidnapping and sexual assault. Law enforcement officers believe Dugard was kept in a concealed area behind Garrido's house in Antioch for 18 years. During this time Dugard bore two daughters who were aged 11 and 15 at the time of her reappearance.

On June 2, 2011, Phillip Garrido was sentenced to 431 years' imprisonment; his wife received 36 years to life.  (From Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
There are novelists, most notably Emma Donoghue in Room, who have tried to imagine what a plight like this is like. There are tabloids that have capitalized on its obscenity. And there are far too many survivors of ghastly crimes who have told their stories in lurid terms laced with self-pity. But Ms. Dugard is different. Her book is brave, dignified and painstakingly honest, even when it comes to the banal particulars of how she stayed afloat.
Janet Maslin - New York Times

It's a tough read. But work through it, and you'll find more than the stomach-churning details that make you put it down the first night. This little memoir…was written plainly and simply by Dugard herself, without the help of a ghostwriter. And in that, it is powerful beyond its voyeurism…reading the experience in her own words is a revelation. It allows us to understand who [Dugard] was before she was snatched and how Garrido controlled her.
Petula Dvorak - Washington Post

A Stolen Life, gives a detailed account of Dugard’s despair and loneliness during her captivity. It also describes how Dugard came to depend on her kidnappers Phillip Garrido and wife Nancy....The book describes how Dugard, now 31, had to endure regular physical abuse from Garrido and how she managed to keep going despite repeatedly being raped by him.
Daniel Blake - Christian Post

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for A Stolen Life:

1. Why did Jaycee write her book? In the "Author's Note," she says...

[T]his book is my attempt to convey the overwhelming confusion I felt during those years and to begin to unravel the damage that was done to me and my family.

Do you think this memoir will help her? If so, in what way? For what other reasons might she have written A Stolen Life?

2. What effect do you think her book will have on the reading public—beneficial, prurient, neutral? What effect has it had on you? Why have you chosen to read Jaycee's memoir? Should younger girls read this memoir as a cautionary story...or should it be read by adults only?

3. Jaycee says of her confinement that "with time I grew used to all kinds of things." How would it be possible to grow used to such a horrific ordeal? Do you see her attitude as an acceptance, a shutting down, a giving up...or something else?

4. Talk about the birth of Jaycee's first daughter, the manner in which she gave birth, and how it changed her.

5. Parts of Jaycee's memoir contain graphic descriptions of her abuse at the hands of her captor. Why might she have included such frank passages? Are those descriptions a necessary part of her memoir? If so, why? If not, why not? Consider the words "rape," "molestation," and "abuse" and how frequently the are used in public discourse. As a society, do we understand those words? Does Jaycee's book help us gain a greater insight into the brutality behind those words?

6. Talk about Garrido. What is his sickness? Would you even describe it a sickness? Why did psychotherapy prove ineffective for him? Consider, also what angels mean to him.

7. In what way does Jaycee's relationship with Garrido change over the course of her 18-year captivity?

8. What is Jaycee's attitude toward her numerous pets? Do you find her concerns for their welfare ironic?

9. Do you find Jaycee an inspirational figure? Why or why not?

10. Jaycee was not allowed to use her real neame but forced to use the name, Allisa, given to her by Garrido. Why did he demand she put aside her true name? What is the significance of one's name?

11. How does our society, with all its law enforcement power and child abuse protections, allow someone like Garrido to continue operating? What do you make of the fact that police had visited Garrido's house 60 times during her captivity? What needs to be done?

12. Have you read Emma Donoghue's Room? If so, how do the two books compare?

13. What struck you most while reading Jaycee's account—what did you find most disturbing...surprising...or impressive? Also, what have you come away with after having read the book? Have you been changed in any way by this book?

14. Perhaps the most interesting question of all—how would YOU have survived Jaycee's ordeal? Or how would you have survived as her parent?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use it, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)h

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