Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Human Trafficking: The Real Dark Caravan

In honour of the release of Exquisite Captive today, I have Heather Demetrios stopping by with a touching, thought provoking guest post on a topic that is important to both of us. A topic that inspired so much of what is within the pages of Exquisite Captive.

Here, Heather Demetrois talks about human trafficking and how it inspired her jinni, and the series itself.

Human Trafficking: The Real Dark Caravan

One of the things that fascinates me about jinn mythology is that whether it’s a lighthearted story like I Dream of Jeannie, or something more serious like 1,001 Nights, we always see them as slaves. Here are these incredibly powerful creatures who can manifest your dreams out of thin air, and yet they are shackled to human masters who treat them like wish ATMs and are stored in tiny spaces, like bottles or lamps. Remember that part in Disney’s Aladdin when Genie talks about how he has huge powers and a “teeny tiny living space”? Yeah, that.

When I first started working on EXQUISITE CAPTIVE, my early beta readers were surprised that I’d decided to have my protagonist be a jinni and not a human that encounters a jinni. I guess, for me, I was always most interested in the magical creature whose very nature seemed to involve enslavement. What would it be like to be so powerful, yet seemingly exist only to serve people less powerful than you? The very first image I had of my jinni was her trapped in a bottle. It’s pitch black, she can’t use her magic, and she doesn’t know what’s going on. She wonders if she will die. I realized what a terrifying thing that must be, to only be free if your master wills it. When we think of jinn, it’s usually in terms of what we can get out of them. It’s been an interesting journey writing this book because it’s made me see how little we truly know these creatures and how quick we are to rattle off our hypothetical wishes when talking about them. In many ways, they are invisible. They are a means to an end, something to serve us and please us.

It wasn’t until I’d written quite a bit of the first book in the series that the word “trafficked” came to me. It was an “aha!” moment—of course that’s what happened to my jinni. That is the word we use when a child is kidnapped, drugged, and sold to an adult “master.” The only difference between what was happening to my jinni and the thousands of children, women, and men who are trafficked all over the world is that my jinni has magical powers and the hope that once her master makes his third wish, she’ll be free. As I delved deeper into the dark caravan—the jinn slave trade—I found myself beginning to draw on more obvious parallels between my novel and real life. I realized that my human masters were raised in a culture like ours where jinn are nothing more than magical servants who we believe exist for our pleasure. As such, it wasn’t likely they would treat their jinn with dignity. Just like in real life, my trafficked slaves are bought, sold, drugged, beaten, and raped. They’re taken from their homes and their families and given no hope of escape.

It wasn’t until the book was finished that I made the conscious decision to see it as a way to talk about the human slave trade with my teen readers. Hopefully some of them have read Patricia McCormick’s Sold, which chronicles the experiences of a young girl sold into slavery, but more likely than not, most of my readers might not even know that kids their age are being bought and sold every day. This is a tough topic—dark and brutal. I realized that my series had the potential to shed light on the plight of modern day slaves while engaging readers and giving them all the other stuff that makes a fantasy novel satisfying: romance, adventure, intrigue, and a whole new imaginative world (Ha! Get it? Ten points for an Aladdin reference on accident).

At the back of the novel, I’ve included the section on my website that provides more information on human trafficking, as well as ways to learn more and get involved in the fight. I’m also partnering with Nomi Network, a wonderful organization that started in Cambodia, helping survivors and women at risk of the slave trade. In fact, Cambodia is where I first heard about the problem of human trafficking. I was traveling there several years ago and it was something that was being talked about a lot. I think one of the gifts of fiction is that it allows us to see the world in a new way and can give us a chance to increase our empathy and galvanize us toward action. In the best situations, the fiction we read works inside us to make the world a better place.

I hope that you take a moment to check out the trafficking resources on my website or buy one of Nomi’s fantastic Buy Her Bag, Not Her Body bags (I have one, and purchased one for my editor and my agent). My husband even rocked a Buy Her Shirt, Not Her Body shirt at BEA because he’s cool like that. I often update the Dark Caravan Tumblr with information about trafficking, as well. It’s heartbreaking to know that, in this case, art imitates real life. Right now, there is a girl just like my jinni, Nalia, who is far from home, scared, and hurt. She doesn’t know if she’ll ever see the people she loves again. She’s terrified for her life, terrified at all the ways her body has been—and will be—used.

Maybe if we all collectively wish an end to the human slave trade—and act against such horrifying practices in some way—this reality will be relegated to fiction. 

Thank you Heather for stopping by, and spreading awareness of this very important cause. Please visit the links included for more information about human trafficking, and Heather's book.

Be sure to stop by tomorrow for my review of Exquisite Captive (spoiler alert, I LOVED it) and grab your copy, it's in stores today! 

Exquisite Captive links - Goodreads // Harper Collins Canada // Chapters // Amazon // Barnes and Noble

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