Elevate Difference

I-5: A Novel of Crime, Transport, and Sex

Sexual slavery is a serious problem in the world. While the numbers vary between agencies, the most commonly reported statistics are from the U.S. State Department’s 2005 report on trafficked persons, which estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people are illegally trafficked across international borders, with 14,500 to 17,500 trafficked to the U.S. These numbers include all forms of forced labor, but sexual slavery has the highest percentage, affecting both women and children. Women are lured with the promise of jobs in other countries, but are subjected to sexual servitude. Summer Brenner’s novel I-5 follows the story of Anya, a young woman from Russia, who is stuck in prostitution in the U.S., unable to get out.

Anya’s story is gritty, and not for the weak of heart. Brenner delves deep into the character, creating a realistic narrative. Because of the subject material, there are scenes that are explicit, but it only strengthens the story. Brenner takes a powerful stance in telling Anya’s story. Anya is not shown as a victim; rather, she is a strong woman who has taken her situation and used it in an attempt to secure her freedom. While Anya tells the reader that she enjoys sex and is good at it, she does not like being ordered to service strange men, and desperately wants her freedom.

As the story progresses, Brenner includes flashbacks to Anya’s childhood, and Anya further explains how she ended up in the U.S. as a sexual slave. Besides describing Anya’s story, Brenner also goes into detail about the men who control the “market.” This gives a deeper insight into how women are drawn in, and taken to foreign countries for sex work. In addition, it sadly shows how women who try to retaliate are broken into submission. Brenner does an excellent job portraying this dark world to a chilling degree.

Written by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch, June 29th 2009