While we have interviewed human trafficking activists, shared personal stories from the survivors who live in our safe houses, and worked to educate the general public on the many facets of human trafficking, we’ve compiled a list of book and movie resources for even greater insight into this serious human rights issue:
SOLD by Patricia McCormick
While SOLD is a novel written for young adults, its themes are true to the very real issue of young teenaged girls being trafficked in India. Tracing thirteen-year-old Lakshmi’s life from a small mountain village in Nepal to a life of prostitution in India, McCormick draws from her interviews with real women in a similar situation to tell a heartbreaking tale in stark free verse.
Walking Prey: How America’s Youth Are Vulnerable to Sex Slavery by Holly Austin Smith
Walking Prey looks at American human trafficking with an astute cultural lens. As a survivor of trafficking herself, Austin Smith discusses how contemporary culture can create and build upon vulnerability and the flaws in the criminal justice system that should be protecting survivors instead of prosecuting them. Austin Smith shines a clear and important light on human trafficking’s presence in our own backyards.
A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison
Addison marked his literary debut with this thriller, which bridges the lives of two orphan girls being trafficked in India with that of an American lawyer who has made it his mission to rescue them. Addison reveals the corruption of the justice system and the magnitude of the criminal networks at play through his novel, whose action does not detract from its clear depiction of human trafficking.
A Harvest of Thorns by Corban Addison
Addison brings us another powerful and action-packed novel, this time depicting the plight of sweatshop workers and others who have been exploited in labor trafficking. A Harvest of Thorns pits a journalist investigating a sweatshop fire against the massive corporation that owned it, with the lives of the oppressed workers at its core.
The Slave Across the Street by Peggy Sue Wells and Theresa Flores
The Slave Across the Street turns the stereotype of human trafficking victims on its head by recounting Flores’ experience as a middle-class, suburban girl who was trafficked at night by classmates, all while living under her unknowing parents’ roof. It’s a wake-up call to the ubiquity and startling pervasiveness of human trafficking.
Life Interrupted: Trafficking Into Forced Labor in the United States by Denise Brennan
The phrase “human trafficking” usually conjures sex trafficking, but Brennan’s book exposes the plight of thousands of workers forced into labor trafficking. She looks across sectors, from farming to factories to construction, to reveal how economic disparity, punitive immigration laws, and other factors enslave thousands of people trying to make a life for themselves. Brennan is also donating all royalties from her book to the nonprofit Survivor Leadership Training Fund, administered through the Freedom Network.
Journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn filmed this documentary after the success of their book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, which examines the huge systemic challenges in combating women’s oppression. This documentary follows Kristof, WuDunn, and a host of celebrity activists around ten developing countries as they interview many women who have been subject to prostitution, rape, gender violence, and other forms of mistreatment, all while examining possible solutions.
This powerful documentary is another multiple-country tour of human and labor trafficking, but it focuses on the very young children who are forced into these brutal circumstances. Filmmaker Robert Bilheimer does not shy away from showing horrors such as children being prostituted as young as 5 years old, Ghanaian children forced to fish for 14 hours a day, and the violent lives of Ugandan child soldiers. Bilheimer exposes the vulnerability of the youngest among us to the worst kinds of violence.
“Very Young Girls” takes a localized perspective of human trafficking and focuses on the adolescent African-American girls who are coerced into sex trafficking on the streets of New York. Directors David Schisgall and Nina Alvarez follow them from their seduction through their traumatic experiences, including their treatment at the hands of the police who view them as adult criminals despite their age. The film even contains some shocking footage of the pimps themselves, who reveal how these cycles of violence can begin.
“I am Jane Doe” diverges from examining the magnitude of human trafficking in that it focuses on a group of mothers waging a dramatic legal battle against Backpage.com, where their middle-school daughters had been trafficked for commercial sex. The legal lens of the film provides a unique perspective to stories that are both intensely personal and all-too common. Proceeds from the film are donated to anti-human trafficking non-profits who serve children.