Title: A Walk Across the Sun
Author: Corban Addison
Release Date: January 3rd, 2012
Length: 371 pages | 15 hours 17 minutes
Source: Gifted to me by the vibrant Kaity of (Bee)autiful Blessings
When a tsunami rages through their coastal town in India, 17-year-old Ahalya Ghai and her 15-year-old sister Sita are left orphaned and homeless. With almost everyone they know suddenly erased from the face of the earth, the girls set out for the convent where they attend school. They are abducted almost immediately and sold to a Mumbai brothel owner, beginning a hellish descent into the bowels of the sex trade.
Halfway across the world, Washington, D.C., attorney Thomas Clarke faces his own personal and professional crisis-and makes the fateful decision to pursue a pro bono sabbatical working in India for an NGO that prosecutes the subcontinent’s human traffickers. There, his conscience awakens as he sees firsthand the horrors of the trade in human flesh, and the corrupt judicial system that fosters it. Learning of the fate of Ahalya and Sita, Clarke makes it his personal mission to rescue them, setting the stage for a riveting showdown with an international network of ruthless criminals.
This is a solidly good book. I was really hesitant to read it, because how can a story about human trafficking be anything but horrifying and heartbreaking? We even shy away from calling it what it is- slavery (“trafficking” is so much softer and more vague). And I know I tend to think of it as something that happens to other people, even though I KNOW Seattle is one of the trafficking locations in the US. Los Angeles and New York are in that list, by the way. I used to work near the port and I’d see those huge shipping containers and think “No one would even know if a whole herd of people were locked in there.”
But having read this story, it’s much more organized, and sinister, than that. The author did his research (he talks about it in the author’s note), mostly with a group in India similar to his fictional CASE- an NGO that is dedicated to finding the slave owners, slave sellers, and their gangs and bringing them to justice, as well as supporting the victims (minors, and otherwise). And from what he writes, the trade in human slavery, especially sex slavery, works in conjunction with other black market dealings- drug networks, mafia, smuggling, and espionage. It’s difficult to wrap my head around the concept of vast underground networks that spin entirely on men buying women and underage girls.
So while the book as a whole wasn’t eye opening, it did shed some light into how this phenomenon can continue to thrive around the world. And certainly the resources the author provides help. He has some practical ways to encourage fighting modern slavery, which I really needed.
OK, back to the story of the story. There are three main characters- Ahalya, Sita, and Thomas. The story is written in third person so I never really connected with any of the characters. And the sensationalism is reduced, so it wasn’t visceral or grisly. Mostly, I disliked Thomas but appreciated his persistence. Mostly, Sita was amazingly brave. More brave than I would be, in her situation. Mostly, Ahalya felt like a plot device. But overall, this was worth the read. It’s an important topic, and not a poorly written story.
Here are some eye-popping Federal US statistics for you:
- 14,500-17,500 human beings are sold into slavery within the US every year. Mostly, these are people imported from countries like India, Eastern Europe, the Philippines, Mexico, etc.
- 100,000 to 300,000 of these human beings are under the age of 18, and usually exploited sexually.
- The average age of a sexually exploited child is 11.
- The average lifespan of a child in the sex trafficking trade? Two years.
- 2003 was the first time a state passed a law criminalizing human trafficking (it was WA state, but seriously- 2003?!)
- In 2007, slave traders made more profit than Google, Nike, and Starbucks combined.
- Slavery accounts for labor in the following industries: Sex and Escort, Domestic work, Traveling sales crews, Landscaping, Food services, Construction, Health and Beauty, Hospitality, Manufacturing, Carnivals, Forestry, and more.
- The worst cities in the US for human slavery are: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis, Tampa, and DC.
The best way to fight it is to put a voice to it. Check out organizations like Polaris and be vigilant. Support organizations that advocate for the victims and work with law enforcement to bust the perpetrators.