Tuesday, November 4, 2014

‘Made in the USA: The Sex Trafficking of America’s Children’ (Book Review)

A social justice issue that for many years has been close to my heart is human trafficking. So I was grateful for the opportunity to review one of the most recent books on the subject, Made in the USA: The Sex Trafficking of America’s Children by Alisa Jordheim (HigherLife, 2014). The author is Founder and Executive Director of the Justice Society. No, not DC Comics’ team of superheroes, but a nonprofit that has taken up the cause against modern day sexual slavery.

While most media tend to focus on these crimes committed outside our country, Made in the USA brings the topic uncomfortably close to home, featuring the dramatized stories of five trafficking survivors. Each serves as an example of how American minors get forced into the pornography and prostitution: the emotionally-controlling boyfriend, the abusive family member, homelessness, recruitment, and kidnapping. Some of the content was expected, such as the common themes of broken homes, drug abuse, physical abuse, and emotional manipulation. Other parts opened my eyes, such as the rape culture of rodeos that apparently doesn’t get publicized often. It’s hard to come away from this book still thinking of prostitution as solely an urban problem.

Because of my concern for this social problem, it’s tempting to just offer praise for Made in the USA, but I need to be honest: I was really disappointed by it’s disorganization. The pages were cluttered with stock photos and the text padded with lengthy quotes, distracting me from the book’s central message. While tear-inducing at times, the testimonials didn’t always read smoothly; often it seemed as though important parts of the stories had gone missing. In addition, it would’ve been nice to begin each chapter with more background information about the featured victim, and to save the commentary about the key themes for afterward. By discussing the themes first, I felt like the stories – the main attraction of the book – were relegated to supporting evidence. I closed the book wondering if it had been a rushed job. Yes, it’s difficult to critique a book like this, when you know the contributors must have relived a lot of pain to share their experiences, experiences that haunt their dreams and continue to cause them to feel shame. I’m extremely grateful that they went for it anyway, taking the chance to help others entrapped and spread the word about these terrible crimes. But because I believe their stories are important, I wish more effort had been put into their presentation.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.