I’m thrilled to present a Spark from my dear friend, Norwegian writer Anne Ostby. Anne is an award-winning, best selling author and I’m hoping before very long her work will be translated into English and available.
I heard Anne read part of ‘Town of Love’ when we presented a literary evening together in Suva, Fiji. Here’s a pic of us afterwards; you can tell what fun we had. The reading was wonderful; so beautifully written, such a deeply upsetting subject presented with such respect and passion.
“The idea for Town of Love was sparked in a garden in Tehran in 2007. I was talking with my friend Ruchira Gupta, the anti-trafficking activist, Emmy-award winner, recipient of the Clinton Global Citizen Award, and so much more, about her NGO in India when she suddenly suggested: ”Why don’t you come visit me and see what we do? Then you can write a book about it!” I thought ”Why not?”, and the seed for the opening chapter had been planted.
That conversation became the start of a long journey for me. Not just a geographical one, to a small town in northern India on the Nepali border, but also one of understanding and acknowledging responsibility. Understanding what the buying and selling of human beings really entails, and recognizing that I couldn’t simply turn my back on that knowledge. That is why I had to write the book. That is why I had to go back to Bihar again and again, get to know these women, hear their stories, and carry them forward in the shape of a novel.
The story of the Nat women in Town of Love begins and ends under a mango tree in Bihar. It is told through many voices in many places – some real, some fictional. But everything that is important in the book is true. That young girls are kidnapped and hidden away; that children are assaulted, abused, and raped. That those who reap the benefits of the human flesh trade, with all its violence and brutality, mostly walk free.
But the story also finds a glimmer of hope for the women who walk the streets of the Town of Love, the girls on display in door openings and on balconies. A hope brought by those who care. Those who enter the tiny rooms, push back the curtains, share in Rupa and Salma’s pain. Like Tamanna and Fawzia, there are those who reclaim the governance of their own lives and their own bodies. The hope of Town of Love is that there will be more of them. So that the spark ignited in a garden in Tehran will become the roaring fire I dreamed of.
Anne Ch. Ostby”