Tuesday, January 5, 2016

‘Fallen: Out of the Sex Industry and Into the Arms of the Savior’ (Book Review)

As a little girl, Annie Lobert longed for love and acceptance. Instead she learned that she was worthless in the eyes of others, from her emotionally abusive father to the men she met at bars and clubs, who thought nothing of drugging and raping her. Anxious to gain control over her life, she turned to “high-class prostitution,” making some serious money. But what she thought would be a short-term job (to save up for school, of course) soon turned into a terrifying form of slavery.

If you’re looking for something to read this Human Trafficking Awareness Month (or anytime really), consider Fallen: Out of the Sex Industry and Into the Arms of the Savior (Worthy, 2015). Part testimonial, part memoir, this book tells the heartbreaking story of Annie Lobert’s experience working as an “escort” in Hawaii, Las Vegas, and her home state Minnesota. While a life of expensive jewelry, handbags, and cars might appear glamourous to some, Lobert reveals the darker side of being a sex worker, including the toxic relationship between her and her pimp. Now free from that life, the founder of Hookers for Jesus devotes her time to reaching out to other prostitutes and raising public awareness.

Despite its heavy topic, Fallen is a quick read. I attribute this to the fact that the story didn’t grip me the way similar ones have. Perhaps this is due to the author’s style of writing. Lobert doesn’t allow the events of the story to unfold naturally. For example, we learn of her eventual reconciliation with her father when she’s first trying to explain her troubling childhood, instead of later in the book. Hindsight influences her comments about being used and manipulated by lovers, clients, her escort agency, and her pimp. And we don’t get to see how her miscarriages and clinical abortions affected her while she was a prostitute because she doesn’t mention them until the end, when discussing how difficult it was to forgive herself. The end result is a lack of a clear picture of how Lobert finally became aware of her situation, decided to get out for good, and came to convert to charismatic Christianity.

I appreciate Lobert opening up about her past. It’s not easy for anyone to do. I also appreciate her willingness to speak frankly about the sex industry, when many under-informed people promote it in the name of freedom and many Christians prefer to turn a blind eye to its victims in the name of upholding decency. While there is always room for improvement, Fallen is an important book in the growing number of resources addressing this social problem. For that reason, I think it deserves your consideration.