Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Life Interrupted: Trafficking Into Forced Labor in the United States by Denise Brennan

For the past year I've been interested in the efforts of those who are fighting to end human trafficking around the world. It's a serious problem, and there are no easy solutions. Earlier this year I read Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade- and How We Can Fight It by David Batstone, the founder of Not for Sale.  In it, he described the ordeals of specific individuals who had been enslaved. It is an eye-opening work, and I suggest that everyone should read it. 

Thus it was with great interest that I discovered   Life Interrupted: Trafficking Into Forced Labor in the United States by Denise Brennan in the Net Galley list. Brennan is an anthropology professor at Georgetown University whose research focuses on human trafficking and immigration reform. In Life Interrupted Brennan outline the experiences of several women and a few men who were enslaved here in the United States. The experiences of these people were different; some were forced into the sex trade, some were farm workers, and some were domestic workers. However, despite these differences, the one thing they all had in common was the lack of freedom. Eventually all the people Brennan describes were able to achieve freedom, but for many that was not the end of their difficulties. 

Once they were freed from servitude, they then faced the bureaucratic and legal issues experienced by many immigrants who do not enter this country legally. Many are able to receive a special visa for trafficked individuals, but many remain in limbo. Once those hurdles are overcome, they then have to adjust to life in a totally alien country with no means of support. For many, the circumstances of their past make it difficult to reach out to others from their home countries, and many lack training and skills that would enable them to find jobs. 

Brennan outlines these problems and describes many of the organizations and individuals who are reaching out to those who were trafficked. At the end of the book is a lengthy appendix with sources of information on how we can get involved in the fight to end human trafficking and how to help those who have been freed.  

While I found Brennan's accounts of the trafficked individuals compelling, I felt that this book is a bit too academic to appeal to those who are just becoming aware of the issue.  There was extensive footnoting, and in many places the narrative became bogged down and a tad repetitive. I do think, however, that anyone who is passionate about ending trafficking and has a good grasp of the issues should read this book, especially for the appendix. For those just learning about the cause, I would suggest David Batstone's Not for Sale.