Not Asking For It

Sexual slavery is unfortunately nothing new, particularly in times of war. If you liked Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, White Chrysanthemum by Mary Lynn Bracht might be right up your alley. I'm going to cover some other books dealing with forced prostitution, some fiction, some not, as well.

Bracht's White Chrysanthemum tells the story of Hana and her younger sister Emi, girls who grow up on the Korean island of Jeju. They are part of the tradition of haenyeo, women divers who are often the breadwinners of their families. When she is 16, Hana saves Emi from the Japanese army, much to her cost as a "comfort woman" in a brothel-prison in Manchuria. Emi is tricked into a loveless marriage during the Korean War. How these women endure is the core of this richly detailed and heart-wrenching novel.

The Last Girl by Nadia Murad is a true-life account of life under the Islamic State. Murad is a Yazidi, a religious and ethnic minority in Syria and Iraq. When her village elders refuse to convert to Islam, IS kills them, all the rest of the men, and the older women, including Murad's mother. The boys are then coerced into the IS fighting lines and the girls are forced into prostitution. Imprisoned in a bordello by a group vicious even by IS standards, Murad escapes and is hidden by a Muslim family until she can make her way to the West. The terms "powerful" and "call to action" get tossed around when describing this book, and they are not wrong.

Lydia and Alena are from Lithuania, but they've been deceived and sold into prostitution by the Russian mafia in Sweden. In Anders Roslund's novel Box 21, grumpy detective Ewert Grens tries to help Lydia, who has been beaten almost to death by her pimp. It's part of Ewert's plan to finally put a particularly nasty criminal away for good. Lydia has her own agenda and takes hostages in the hospital where she's being cared for, allowing Alena to escape. If you like Scandinavian noir like Henning Mankell and the Lisbeth Salander series, this is a good one to pick up.

Rachel Lloyd got manipulated into sex work as a teenager, got out, and wrote a book: Girls Like Us. Lloyd exposes the tactics pimps use with their victims: a little sugar with a whole lot of slap. She also points out that when children are abused privately they are treated as victims, but if that abuse is monetized, they are considered criminals. Powered by her experiences, Lloyd fights to get laws on the books that protect children and teenagers from commercialized sexual abuse. A powerful call for compassion for those who have been thrown away.

Got more books of women who go through hell and keep going? Tell us about them in the comments.

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