It seems like I’ve recently been on a reading spree of “abused and degraded women” books. I’m not sure where this came from, but I sit here with mixed feelings on the hardships that a lot of women have to endure. I am grateful for my freedom: the ability to make my own choices, follow through on my own dreams, have love and support in my life and the opportunity to let my mind wander into the future and know that it is an adventure of endless possibilities. At the same time, my heart aches for those who do not have this, particularly women and children, and I feel a pang of guilt for enjoying all of my life blessings while others are not even aware that it is even a possibility to live the way that I do.
All of these feelings… Damn you, library, damn you!
Here are my short book reviews on the books I’ve read lately that are along these lines.
The first book on my ‘grateful guilt’ spree is Trafficked, by Sophie Hayes.
This is a true story about a young woman, living a normal life in England, who was trafficked into the sex trade by her “best friend”. She shares her heart-breaking story of abuse, degradation, sex slavery and complete fear as she takes us to Italy, France, near-death and eventually back home to a life she had thought was impossible to have again.
I was enthralled and enraged and captivated. What struck me as how this story doesn’t fit the “usual mould” of human tracking cases that we hear about. Sophie was not from a poor family on the outskirts of an Eastern European town. She did not have a lack of education nor was she raised in an orphanage or abusive household. She was just a ‘normal’ woman, who trusted a friend, and found herself being trafficked. It’s horrifying.
Sophie Hayes has since set up The Sophie Hayes Foundation which aims to bring hope to survivors of human trafficking and slavery.
The second book in my spree is Escape. Carolyn Jessop. Another true story of abuse and degradation, but this time from within a polygamous community of religious FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) cult.
Carolyn was born into the FLDS and a polygamist family. She did not realise the abuse and oppression that it harboured until it became too much. Her eyes were opened to the possibility of freedom and she did whatever she could to get her and her 8 children out of the cult which abused them. What struck me with this book was that it touched on a concept that I’ve explored in my own thinking – “Does one know that he/she is oppressed, if he/she has never seen oppression?”. The answer is yes. When someone is not allowed to be happy and prevented from protecting her children, she knows oppression.
Carolyn Jessop is as strong as they come. And not only because she gave birth to 8 children from a husband she’d never loved (naturally birthed and without being allowed to scream), but also because she found a way to escape and provide a future for herself and them all, from nothing.
I’m horrified, and inspired by these stories. I’m also incredibly, gratefully guilty about my life and my freedom.
Onto some light fiction for the next batch, I reckon…