When I read the first page of Sibel Hodge’s Trafficked: The Diary of a Sex Slave, I knew to proceed with caution. Hodge notes that the novella is inspired by “real victims’ accounts and research into the sex trafficking underworld.” I wondered if Hodge would be able to engage the reader while drawing attention to the actual issue or, on the contrary, entertain readers with a story loosely based on an important issue à la Stieg Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. Not to disparage Larsson’s juxtaposition of a touchy subject with an entertaining storyline but the socially conscious writer must realize the importance of balance and these two possible outcomes when writing a book with a phrase like “sex slave” in the title.
Fortunately, the novella does seem more focused on bringing attention to the issue rather than simply entertaining readers. While the story is obviously engaging, as evidenced by my finishing the fifty-three pages in one sitting, I do have one suggestion for improvement. Rather than being told that “people [are] going about their life as if everything in the world is normal” (pg. 12) or having it pointed out how unnatural it is for a woman to be a part of the trafficking industry (pg.6), I wish I was provided with the sensory descriptions and/or details necessary for me to make these conclusions myself. Readers, by their very nature, have the imagination necessary to draw conclusions or understand irony on their own. The novella may have been more successful at drawing attention to the horrors of sex slavery and the trafficking industry by allowing the reader to use these innate skills more often. Once, when she has obviously gone through a horrid ordeal, Hodge’s main character, Elena, does make the following statement: “I have not written much because I do not want to describe the things they make me do. You can imagine every depravity and increase it a hundred times, then you will understand” (pg. 16). From that statement I know that Hodge has faith in her readers' imaginations. I just wish she would have more readily relied on it throughout the novella.
In conclusion, I laud Hodge, a self-described “chicklit” author, for stepping outside of her preferred genre to draw attention to such an important, under-addressed twenty-first century issue. By doing this herself, she will most likely draw the attention of a whole readership who may not have been aware of the pain and suffering many women across the world still go through today in the unfortunately enduring practice of sex slavery.