They Called Me Red.


192 pages
ISBN 978-1-897073-88-9
DDC jC813'.6





Reviewed by Dave Jenkinson

Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.


Divided into three parts, They Called Me Red focuses on the sexual trafficking of children. In “Lily,” Devon, a.k.a. Red, lives with his single-parent father, Bryce, and Bryce’s recent girlfriend, Lily, a Vietnamese immigrant. After Bryce develops liver cancer, Lily convinces him to travel to Vietnam to be cured by traditional medicines. Red-headed Devon joins them, but Bryce does not respond to treatment and dies on Devon’s 13th birthday.


In “Long,” a drugged Devon finds he has been sold by Lily, now back in America, to a woman, Long, who runs a “restaurant” in Cambodia. Along with four Asian boys and six young girls, Devon is sexually used by the restaurant’s customers until he and the other sexual slaves are rescued by a Vietnamese policeman who has been searching for him. “Joy” deals with Devon’s return home after almost a year’s absence, and his efforts to deal with the emotional aftermath of his repeated abuse.


Kilbourne sidesteps dealing with the explicit details of the sexual assaults on Devon by having him repeatedly being given a “calming tea” that renders him semi-drugged and unaware. Though the book deals with a serious issue in today’s world, “Lily,” the first section and some 40 percent of the book’s length, is used just to get Red to Vietnam.


Unfortunately, Kilbourne’s choice of setting could lead North American readers to the incorrect conclusion that the sex trade in juveniles, actually a global problem, is a phenomenon exclusive to Asia. Recommended with reservations.


Kilbourne, Christina., “They Called Me Red.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,