When Shanoor Seervai first visits Mumbai’s red-light district as a young volunteer, she is shaken by the violence and despair that women there endure every day. Years later, now a newspaper reporter, she returns to gain a deeper understanding of the lives of sex workers.
Daughters of the Red Light is a searing look at the poverty, injustice and stigma that keep entire families from escaping India’s notorious sex industry. Seervai takes readers to Mumbai’s grittiest alleyways to discover the stories of these women and girls. As she unravels the brutal web entangling them, she finds an unexpected reason for hope.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shanoor Seervai is an Indian writer and journalist. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Beast, Guernica Magazine, The Caravan and The Indian Express. Born and raised in Mumbai, she now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she is pursuing an advanced degree in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
EARLY PRAISE FOR DAUGHTERS OF THE RED LIGHT
“This is a meaningful and important piece of writing that contributes in a significant way toward understanding the lives of sex workers and their families and how we might help alleviate their marginalization and suffering. Shanoor Seervai’s book shows you the humanity of the mothers and children in the red light district, as she takes you on her journey of discovery into their world and her place in the world at large. It gave me new insight into the lives of the sex workers and their children, and how the tireless work of some offers real hope—the greatest gift of all.”
— Geeta Anand, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Cure
“Most writing about India’s underbelly treats people as passive victims. It is far too easy to find stories of misery in Indian cities and hold them up as one-dimensional examples of the country’s uneven progress. Shanoor Seervai does not do cutouts. She dives into the world of Mumbai’s sex workers, introducing us to real women with families and dreams we recognize. She brings the reader along for her journey, which is journalistic as well as personal, as she navigates the gender norms and class divides of urban India with sharp observations and true empathy. I’ve been visiting Mumbai all my life and feel I understand it better having read this heartfelt work.”
— Shashank Bengali, South Asia bureau chief, Los Angeles Times
“A thought-provoking headlong dive into a little known culture.”
— Sonia Faleiro, Award-winning author of Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars.
“With this honest and insightful memoir, Shanoor Seervai peels back a tattered curtain to reveal the complex and brutal world of Mumbai’s commercial sex trade. Through her eyes, we begin to really see the women — and children — behind the makeup. Through her journey we are challenged to consider our common humanity; and our own, personal response to the injustices that land (and keep) millions of the world’s most vulnerable children in the hell we call the ‘Red Light.'”
— Laura Entwistle, Founder and CEO of EmancipAction, an international non-profit organization working to end child sex trafficking around the world
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