In Kamathipura, Mumbai’s oldest red-light district, young victims of the sex trade are held in secret attic rooms until their pimps deem the girls worthy of customers. Author Corban Addison pretended to be one of these buyers.
“They only let you in if they think they can trust you,” Addison says. Once he and his guide were behind closed doors, pimps brought out the girls for purchase.
“I’ll never forget looking into their eyes and seeing this void, this combination of sadness and fear,” Addison says. Witnessing Mumbai’s dark underworld shaped Addison’s powerful new novel A Walk Across the Sun.
In the book, Addison tells the story of two orphaned Indian girls who fall into the hands of human traffickers and the man who dedicates his life to bringing them back together.
Addison says he chose to write a fiction novel to “humanize the topic in a way that nonfiction struggles to do.” Before spending nine months researching for his book, Addison practiced law in the U.S. At the urging of his wife, he went on sabbatical and spent a month in India with the human rights organization International Justice Mission (IJM).
With IJM, Addison experienced a bit of hope amidst the devastating reality of modern-day slavery. At safe houses, Addison met with rescued girls recovering from their living nightmare.
“While there are happy endings,” Addison explains, “these are not fairytale endings. It’s an ending where a girl is rescued and has a view of her future that allows her to keep putting one foot in front of the next, and find a new way forward.”
In A Walk Across the Sun, Addison hopes to dispel “the greatest enemy of awareness—disbelief.” The trafficking of human beings, he explains, is a $32 billion a year industry that is not only rampant in India but is also a global problem and one that is thriving right here on U.S. soil.
In the land of the free, a University of Pennsylvania study estimates that approximately 300,000 girls are at risk of sexual exploitation each year. Corban explains, “Right now, there are thousands of American girls who are being pimped out and sold, and it’s not just on the streets. It’s also in truck stop brothels and suburban brothels. Girls are being taken from conference to conference, sporting event to sporting event, and are being sold into sex parties at hotels.”
To combat this problem, Corban says, it’s going to take a worldview shift. His hope with A Walk Across the Sun is that he can open readers’ eyes to the issue. “I want to leave the reader with a question: What are we going to do about the fact that this is not just fiction?”