This novel, set in 2004, looks at modern-day human trafficking through the experiences of Munna, an Indian boy.
After the shameful death by suicide of his elder sister, Asha, and the subsequent shunning of his family by his neighbors and community, 15-year-old Munna turns to his uncle for help finding work so that he can support his mother and two other sisters, Reshma and Meena. But Uncle Suraj sells him from their village into slavery to a man known only as Master-ji in the fictional Middle Eastern city of Deeba. Munna is tasked with heading a sheik’s ousbah, or camel farm. At the farm, Munna is shocked by how the child jockeys—some as young as 2—are treated and realizes he is as trapped as they are. The story is told in a literary third person that gives its subjects dignity: “Munna settled into the dusty rhythm of life at the ousbah, soaking in everything about camels as fast as a thirsty man in a desert would gulp down water.” The book is well-researched (Nanji provides a list of sources for further reading), and it captures the violent horrors that these enslaved boys experience (starvation, corporal punishment). But the white savior–inspired denouement—in an unbelievable plotline, Munna is befriended by Avra, an expatriate Canadian teenager, who helps him—and a too-coincidental happy ending mar an otherwise informative book.
An imperfect look at an all-too-real evil. (discussion questions) (Historical fiction. 10-14)