After reading his stunning debut novel a few months ago, we contacted Corban Addison, the author of A Walk Across the Sun, to tell him just how much his debut novel has touched us all. We were surprised by his response and willingness to answer some of our questions. Some of you have submitted questions and they were all very good but unfortunately since Mr. Addison is in the midst of promoting his new book, The Garden of Burning Sand, we had to reduce the number of questions. The following four questions were chosen with great consideration and immense appreciation for the time the author took to shed some light on the matters that have drawn most of readers' attention.
AoS: First of all, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to answer a few of our questions. We've all read how your wife actually inspired you to write a novel about human trafficking after watching a movie on the subject over four years ago. You've also mentioned that through fiction some issues and causes can touch people who would not have known about them otherwise. Why start in India and why tsunami; was there any response or outrage from the Indian community? At the end of the day, kidnappings like that happen even in the most mundane circumstances.
CA: I started the book with the tsunami for a couple of reasons. First, I had already decided to set a large part of the book in India, both because it’s an interesting place and because human trafficking is a major problem there (worse, by sheer numbers, than anywhere else in the world). Second, I remembered hearing stories after the tsunami happened about orphaned children who were trafficked into the sex trade. From a story-building standpoint, I thought the tsunami would make a powerful opening scene, and I’ve heard from readers that it did. As for the responses of Indians, I’ve been pleased to receive very positive feedback from the Indian community, both in the subcontinent and in the diaspora. By and large, Indians have loved the story and found it culturally authentic.
AoS: I was quite taken aback when Elsie, the runaway from Pittsburgh said that America is the best country on earth. She is in a van, being taken someplace to be sold for sex again and still she holds on to that belief. What were you hoping to achieve with that?
CA: I intended her statement ironically, not literally. Many Americans believe that human trafficking happens somewhere out there, in back alleys in the developing world, but that it doesn’t happen here. I wrote my story, in part, to confront people with the truth that trafficking happens in this country, too, in our own cities and neighborhoods, and that it is often hidden in plain sight. I was hoping that Elsie’s ironic sense of American exceptionalism would reveal the fundamental flaw in the exceptionalist mindset. Human trafficking isn’t a developing world problem, it’s a human problem. And America is far from immune.
AoS: Your new novel came out in September, you have again immersed into research for it, this time violence against women and the location is Africa. Can we expect light being shed on this issue that is again global and not just of the third world and is the same to be expected from your next novel?
CA: Every story I write about human rights issues will be firmly situated in two worlds—the developing world and the West. I am a firm believer that human rights abuses are not culturally contained but are instead human problems universal in their scope. They may take different forms in different cultures (some of those forms obvious and others hidden), but their root is the same—the depravity and venality of human beings. The Garden of Burning Sand is situated largely in Southern Africa and deals with issues of gender-based violence endemic in that part of the world, but the story resolves in the United States and the message in the book is a human message, applicable across the world.
AoS: Do you ever wonder where Ahalya and Sita are now and how they are? Would they be able to trust a man again?
CA: A few readers have suggested I write a sequel to A Walk Across the Sun. At this point, I don’t intend to do that. I believe the story is self-contained and the resolutions as complete as they needed to be. I leave it to you, the reader, to fill in the blanks and speculate about how Ahalya and Sita are faring.