The other day both my friend and my father voiced what I had myself been feeling—that although they loved the current crop of books I’ve been distributing to them as must-reads, that they might need to inject a few slightly trashier ones for some light relief. Phew. Me too.
I’d encountered a bumper crop of books, including Into The Woods (which I’ve already blogged about), Silent Spring (which I will blog about), and revisited the brilliant (if logic-defying) Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (which I’ll also blog about soon), but was feeling pretty disillusioned with and weighed down by social and environmental problems. And specifically gobsmacked and frustrated that we humans are the initial and ongoing root of all this evil.
While on one level I am empowered and invigorated and inspired to enact change after reading these kinds of books, on almost every other level I feel like sitting in a corner, wallowing, and wishing it would all go away. So why, out of the 50-ish books I have sitting waiting to be read (see previous blog and feel free to send some pointers my way), I finally picked out David Batstone’s Not For Sale, I’ll never know.
It’s a book about abolishing human trafficking. As in slavery. As in the horror happens in developing nations but also, more frighteningly, right here, right now, in our backyard. I can feel the friends I plan to pass the book on to wince already. What happened to me finding them some cotton-candy airport fiction, right?
The good news is that the topic sounds (and is) heavy, Batstone covers it with a light touch. He threads stats with real-life examples, short chapters, and segments of case studies. You’re introduced to a person at the beginning of the chapter and then return to them at its close to find out how their story ended up.
I’m now equal parts fascinated and disturbed how the parts of the world where people (often women or children) who are trafficked (often for sex crimes) changes a little like fashion does—wars, famines, poor financial prospects, a lack of international pressure or sanctions, or governments looking the other way, all play a part in determining who’s trafficked from and to where.
The book covers the stories of women and children forced into sexual slavery in Thailand or Uganda or [insert name of just about any nation here] through poverty or the promise of education for their children or through nightmarish village razing and abduction.
I now understand how people get there and stay/are kept there. I also now understand how it’s a very profitable industry—globalisation at its worst—because Batstone unpacks what’s an entirely complex and murkily moralled issue in a straightforward, commonsense manner.
While the awfulness of the violence and rape perpetrated against women and children really did make me wince, I both winced more knowing that slavery goes on in first-world nations (seriously, in suburban USA and probably in suburban Australia) and that I should be doing more to stop it.
I’m making it sound bleak, though, which it’s really not. Especially as Batstone features the people who, often through random encounters or split-second decisions, have found themselves dedicating their lives to stamping human trafficking out.
I know I’m going to have a hard time selling Not For Sale to my friends as family right now as they all need a less complex carbohydrate non-fiction call to action, more mindlessly consumable simple carbohydrate Twilight-style tale, but I am still going to try. If not now, then at some stage, Not For Sale should be on the list of books I loan out.