Q&A with Corban Addison | Online Exclusives, March 2012

A Look Inside A Walk Across the Sun

Indianapolis native writes compelling novel on human trafficking

Online Exclusives

Author Corban Addison returns to his hometown to share his new book, A Walk Across the Sun, 7 p.m. April 3 at the Carmel Barnes & Noble. The novel spans three continents and two cultures, taking an inside look at human trafficking and the horrific underworld of modern slavery.

Addison shares his inspiration, research and experiences with Indianapolis Woman.

Q: What inspired you to write A Walk Across the Sun?
I’m an attorney by training, and I’ve had an interest in international human rights for a long time. I became familiar with the issue of human trafficking in law school, and it disturbed me deeply to learn that slavery, which I thought had died in the 19th century, was not only alive and well but the fastest-growing criminal industry on the globe, an industry that not only involved exploitative labor but also (and quite voluminously) the forced prostitution of women and children in almost every country. The idea for the book itself was my wife’s. Three and a half years ago, she came to me and said that I should write a novel on human trafficking that would humanize and personalize the issue for readers everywhere. After some thought, I realized the project was a perfect fit for me. So I ran with it.

Watch the book trailer.

Q: What did you find most surprising in your research and writing?
I think I was most surprised to discover how pervasive trafficking is in cities and communities in the United States. A lot of people in the West think of trafficking in faraway places like Cambodia, Thailand and India. Sometimes people think of Eastern Europe. When I tell them that it’s happening in Israel, Italy, Brazil, Japan, Canada and the United States, I get strange looks. When I get more specific and start naming cities in our own country (Atlanta, Toledo, Portland, Las Vegas, Dallas, Kansas City, Miami, San Diego, take your pick), people have a hard time believing me. But it’s true. Even now there are thousands of young women and girls (many American, some foreign) being forced to prostitute themselves on the streets, in hotels and sex clubs, in underground brothels, and through the Internet in our own communities. Law enforcement from the FBI and ICE down to local cops are rescuing girls and taking down pimps and trafficking rings all the time.

Q: Are there any people you met or stories you heard that really gave you hope?
Sometimes I hear people talk about trafficking as if hope is a scarce commodity. The truth is that hope is happening every day. I have hope when I hear of children rescued from brothels in India by organizations like the International Justice Mission. I have hope when I hear of trafficking rings broken up and young women rescued by the FBI in its Innocence Lost National Initiative. I have hope when I hear about cops working the street who have changed their view of a prostitute from a criminal seducing a man to a potential victim of trafficking and violence. I have hope when I talk to college students and see the fire in their eyes to be the change they wish to see in the world. I have hope when I remember the lessons of history: Slavery is not, and has never been, inevitable. We have defeated it in the past, and we can defeat it again. But as history attests, to defeat human trafficking (the second-most profitable criminal industry on Earth), we need a massive society-wide mobilization (i.e. a new abolitionism), we need far more government and charitable funding for anti-trafficking initiatives and victim-oriented social services than we currently have (by that I mean billions of dollars, instead of millions), and we need to decide at long last to shine the spotlight on the people in our communities who fuel the trade — the men who purchase sex — and do whatever it takes to dry up demand.

Q: Beyond the book, where do you recommend readers find more information on human trafficking?
In addition to the novel, which provides a first-person perspective of the global trafficking pipeline, there are many wonderful non-fiction resources out there offering stories, statistics, analysis and prescriptions for change. I’ve listed some great resources on my website: corbanaddison.com/learn-more. The U.S. government publishes an annual Trafficking in Persons report that rates every country in the world, including the U.S., on efforts to combat trafficking and provide services to victims. The best non-fiction works on the trade are Sex Trafficking, by Siddharth Kara at Harvard and A Crime So Monstrous, by Benjamin Skinner. Also, I love to point people to the example of Sweden (recently followed by Norway, Iceland, South Korea, and a few other countries), which led the world in heavily criminalizing the purchase of sexual services. A 2010 report evaluating Sweden’s law proves that targeting demand for prostitution is extremely effective in reducing trafficking and organized crime.

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