A few weeks ago I committed to reading 43 books in 2017 as part of the Perspectives Book Project in an effort to “explore points of view to which I’m otherwise not sufficiently exposed.”
January is designated as U.S. Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and I chose these books to read:
I had never read a book on this topic and I was floored. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know much about sex trafficking, how it even works, how destructive it is, how widespread it is in the United States. I didn’t realize that girls as young as 12 (and, tragically, even younger) are coerced and manipulated into “the life.” How often we assume adult prostitutes “choose” that kind of life without looking at the conditions of their childhoods that led them there. The abuse, the neglect that made them believe they weren’t worth anything more. How girls are forced to do drugs, which sets them on a cycle the strongest among us would have a hard time escaping. The violence. The PTSD. It is reassuring to know that “Safe Harbor” legislation is being passed in some states and hopefully efforts to protect the victims of commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking will continue as awareness rises. It is a heartbreaking situation, and I encourage you to read one or all of these books.
Stolen: The True Story of a Sex Trafficking Survivor by Katariina Rosenblatt
I read this book first and it was a tremendous eye-opener. Katariina Rosenblatt deftly describes how a girl could get swept up into “the life.” It was fascinating to read about her experiences and how commercial sexual exploitation works. I very much admire what Rosenblatt is doing for other victims through her organization: There is Hope for Me. More about the book and organization here.
I was captivated by Rachel Lloyd’s book. Lloyd dives deep into her own experience as well as the experiences of the girls she has helped through her NYC organization GEMS. Her work on behalf of victims is inspiring and overwhelming and makes you want to find her and give her a big hug. She is doing such good in the world. And she is a vocal and tireless advocate for changing U.S. policy on the treatment of victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. This was my favorite book of the three.
I was not aware of the controversy surrounding Cambodian Somaly Mam’s accuracy when I read this book. It was only afterward, when I began to do research on her nonprofit organization AFESIP to learn more, that I found Nicholas Kristof’s piece from The New York Times and a Newsweek article, among others, that called into question her account. That certainly left a sour taste in my mouth, but one thing remains the same. While Mam’s accounts of her own particulars may be open to speculation, her story is representative of what actually is happening. And the stories of the girls she’s encountered and saved through her programs are, if not 100% accurate though they might be, also representative of what is happening. And those stories deserve, no, those stories need to be read and told. So that we can all understand these atrocities. I was swept into the narrative of the book and moved by the incredible and life-changing work that Mam is doing for victims.
Check out Sudara. It is an organization that provides jobs for women in India who want to find a way out of sexual slavery. Founded by Shannon Keith, the organization believes that “giving a woman an opportunity to gain job skills and a long-term career with an upstanding employer in a supply chain of life-minded companies is vital.” They’re known for their Punjammies® lounge pants, which are soft and gorgeous and made entirely by Sudara women. The photo shows the ones I bought. And I just bought a bunch for some of my favorite women. Keep these in mind for upcoming gifts for yourself and others. Learn more about Sudara or read their comprehensive FAQ on human trafficking.
Now I’m getting an early start on February’s reading list for the Perspectives Book Project. February’s books focus on African-American and Black History and Awareness/Racism. First up: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Verdict so far? Wow!
Have you read any books from the Perspectives Book Project? If so, let me know in the comments below or help share on social media by using the tag #PerspectivesBookProject.
More from The Perspectives Book Project: