What to Read Now: Human Trafficking

More than a century after the abolition of slavery, the market for human beings is alive and well. From violent abductions and the sale of family members to voluntary participation due to a lack of empowerment and viable alternatives, human trafficking is a global phenomenon that results in the exploitation and victimization of tens of millions of women, men, and children each year. The economic benefits for traffickers are tremendous, and the suffering for the trafficked is incalculable. This is a problem that can be solved, yet solutions are most likely to emerge in light of the vivid, horrifying, and inspiring stories presented in books such as these.


A Walk Across the SunA Walk Across the Sun 

Corban Addison

Although a work of fiction, this story of two sisters who are abducted and sold into the sex trade rings true for far too many. Set in a seaside town in India, the teenage girls are orphaned after losing their family to a tsunami and soon thereafter find themselves in a brothel in Mumbai. After an American attorney working in India learns of their story, he begins an emotional mission to fight back and win the girls’ freedom. Addison’s prose provides a voice not only for his characters but for the millions of others who share the same story and await their opportunity for freedom as well.



Not for SaleNot for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade—and How We Can Fight It

David Batstone

Offering a very graphic view of modern-day slavery and the trafficking of humans, Batstone reveals painful stories of those who have suffered significantly from this global problem. Focusing specifically on certain countries of concern in Africa and Asia, the harrowing details of being trafficked are presented to the reader in a way that we cannot help but want to do something—anything—to end the suffering. Combining these stories with those of a growing activist movement in response, Batstone provides not only a clear picture of the problem at hand but how we can and should get involved.



Half the SkyHalf the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn 

Focusing more generally on the plight of women in the developing world, Kristof and WuDunn not only paint a picture of the difficult lives that many women live but demonstrate where and why women are overcoming their circumstances and how anyone can make a difference in changing lives for the better. The authors’ discussion of the sex trade, in particular, is enlightening as it illustrates just how challenging this issue is and how difficult, yet important, it is to confront. PBS also produced a companion documentary. 



The Road of Lost InnocenceThe Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine

Somaly Mam

This firsthand account of exploitation, survival, and courage offers an incredible inside view of the sex trade. As if escaping the life of forced prostitution is not difficult enough, Mam shows us how triumph over tragedy leads to a determination to help others do the same. Unable to leave behind those who, like her, were imprisoned in the brutal world of sex work, Mam gives us hope that bravery can defeat brothels.

Suzette R. Grillot is Dean of the College of International Studies at the University of Oklahoma, where she also serves as the William J. Crowe Jr. Chair in Geopolitics and Vice Provost of International Programs.