E. Benjamin Skinner

Reviews / Author / Abolition / Events / International / Contact

Praise and Reviews

"Ben Skinner has taken us deep into an underworld few of us have dared to access, never mind to confront. What he finds is heartbreaking--men, women and children stripped of their identities, their freedom, and their dignity. Reported relentlessly and told grippingly, A Crime So Monstrous is the rare book that doesn't simply expose these harms; it also explains how and why decent people inside and outside the U.S. government have averted their gaze, and it showcases those who have devoted their lives to curtailing a shockingly prevalent crime against humanity. Skinner has written an anguishing book, but also an inspiring call to action."

-- Samantha Power

"In his book, Benjamin Skinner's powerful indictment of contemporary slavery must arouse outrage for perpetrators and compassion for their victims."

-- Elie Wiesel

"Rigorously investigated and fearlessly reported, A Crime So Monstrous is a passionate and thorough examination of the appalling reality of human bondage in today’s world. In his devastating narrative, Ben Skinner boldly casts light on the unthinkable, yet thriving, modern-day practice of slavery, exposing a global trade in human lives. The abuses detailed in these pages are repugnant, but there is hope to be found: by giving voice to the victims, Skinner helps restore their dignity and makes crucial strides toward closing this shameful chapter in history."

-- Bill Clinton

"In his fierce, bold determination to see the lives of modern-day slaves up close, Benjamin Skinner reminds me of the British abolitionist of two hundred years ago, Zachary Macaulay, who once traveled on a slave ship across the Atlantic, taking notes. Skinner goes everywhere, from border crossings to brothels to bargaining sessions with dealers in human beings, to bring us this vivid, searing account of the wide network of human trafficking and servitude which spans today's globe."

-- Adam Hochschild

"Ben Skinner has written a brilliant, shocking and powerful book that goes far beyond the standard human rights exposť. He doesn't simply provide a state of the art chronicle of a humanitarian abuse that cries out for attention, namely the widespread existence of slavery at the dawn of the 21st century. He also tells the eventful tale of a genuinely intrepid investigator in search of the truth. His book reads like a good novel, though it's not a novel; it's a grim slice of the real world graphically, vividly, and disturbingly described."

-- Richard Bernstein

"A dedicated and brave reporter, Skinner has gone to some of the poorest and most desperate places on this planet to tell the stories of some of the men, women and children, forced by poverty and lawlessness, to work for no pay under the threat of violence. He's a great story teller, and he brings the whole underworld of traffickers and their victims to life. At the same time he shows how complex the phenomenon really is, and why the solutions of would-be abolitionists in this country have proven misguided or simply futile."

-- Frances FitzGerald

"A Crime So Monstrous is a remarkably brave and unflinching piece of reportage and storytelling. Ben Skinner bears witness, sharing stories so unsettling, so neglected, so chilling they will leave you shaking with anger. This should be required reading for policy makers around the world – and, for that matter, anyone concerned about the human condition."

-- Alex Kotlowitz

"A Crime So Monstrous is one of those rare books that makes you shudder in the face of its accusations: Thanks to Skinner's courageous and vivid report from the heart of darkness, the rest of us can no longer say we had no idea that millions of already desperately poor men, women, and children are being subjected to the further indignity of being sold against their will for labor and sex."

-- Hernando de Soto

"Ben Skinner's brains and courage take us into the belly of the beast and expose the ugly truth of modern slavery. Instead of sensation, A Crime So Monstrous gives us desperately needed insight and analysis. This is an important book, the first deep look into America's confused relationship with human trafficking and slavery today. Skinner's balanced dissection of our government's haphazard policies will be controversial, but it can also be the foundation for a new anti-slavery agenda, one that ends the political games being played with the lives of slaves."

-- Kevin Bales

"A Crime So Monstrous, by the young American writer Benjamin Skinner, tracing the realities of human trafficking from Haiti to India, does what every great book about place should do: opens the eyes, shakes the conscience and lights up those corners of the world that few of us would dare to inspect first-hand. A truly global work, it shows us the realities that underlie many of our casual pleasures, and reminds us of those truths that affect far more people than (those who) travel on holiday around the globe. After reading it, you cannot look at that red-light street in Romania, or that smiling face in Cambodia, in the same way."

-- Pico Iyer

"This book exposes the horrors of modern-day slavery and human trafficking, demanding attention to an issue that has for too long hidden in the shadows. Skinner's narrative takes us many different places around the world, but can lead to only one conclusion: The U.S. must do more to end this suffering."

-- U.S. Senator Russ Feingold

"Ben Skinner does a great public service by exposing the massive scope of human trafficking in the world today. I appreciate his chapter on the heroic role Ambassador John Miller played in getting the U.S. Government to stand against this evil."

-- U.S. Senator John McCain

"Emancipation wasn't a one-time event; it is a promise written in the blood of all who have ever been held in bondage. Ben Skinner's harrowing journey through the modern slave trade forces us to confront our responsibility to never stop fighting for freedom."

-- Chairman John Conyers, Jr.,
House Committee on the Judiciary

"“There are more slaves today than at any point in human history,” Skinner writes in this devastating book. By slaves he means people coerced by violence to work for no pay. Some prostitutes fall into this category, but a majority of slaves, he says, are domestic servants or forced laborers. Skinner reports from centers of the modern slave trade, including Haiti, Sudan, Romania, Turkey, India, the Netherlands — and Miami."

-- The New York Times

"Much like 19th-century abolitionist accounts of slavery in the United States, his book is meant both to inform and to enrage--and it succeeds on both counts. To see slavery up close, Skinner posed as a buyer of humans for forced labor or sexual exploitation in Haiti, Romania and Turkey. In Sudan, he witnessed former slaves returning to villages from which they had been abducted years earlier. In India, he accompanied a gun-toting labor activist organizing quarry workers who had been forced into debt bondage. By juxtaposing these widely differing cultural, economic and legal contexts, Skinner makes clear that no simple fix will eradicate slavery around the world."

-- The Washington Post

"[A] devastating exposť of the millions of suffering enslaved human beings around the world, including children. . . . High literary style in nonfiction books like "A Crime So Monstrous" is often rare."

-- The Boston Globe

"More slaves are now imported (though the current word for this is trafficked) into the United States annually than were imported in an average year during the American colonial era. That is one of the talking points used lately by the author of a compelling new book on global slavery . . . What is remarkable about Skinner's account is its geographical depth and immediacy."

-- International Herald Tribune

"This is investigative journalism of the first order, the kind that demands blood tribute . . . This book is not for the faint of heart, but it is vital, immediate and absolutely essential for understanding the little-known plight of slaves around the world."

-- Kirkus Reviews 2008 Spring & Summer Preview

"An impassioned exposť of a thriving slave economy in the world's poorest regions . . . An important, consciousness-raising book."

-- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Skinner's health and physical safety were in constant jeopardy during his investigations. He literally risked his life to bring the plight of modern-day slaves to the attention of Western readers. . . . The book is exceptionally well-written and eye-opening. It will keep most readers interested throughout, and will keep them thinking about the subject long after the book's completion. "

-- BookBrowse

"This book bears witness at first-hand . . . a heartbreakingly important work."

-- The Scotsman

" More than a devastating look at modern slavery, it is an inspirational demand for justice."

-- National Geographic Adventure

"Based on five years of research put into this extraordinary book, his first, Skinner claims there are 27 million slaves worldwide."

-- Denver Post

"His book will haunt you, too. It lays the groundwork for action."

-- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"When speaking with a woman from Eastern Europe who was trafficked into sexual exploitation in the Netherlands, he realized that ''there was no way that I could understand what it meant to be a slave.'' But, he told her, he ``hoped to get closer by going undercover, by listening to slaves and slave traders.'' He listened well; his writing is most persuasive when he is bearing witness to poverty and powerlessness."

-- The Miami Herald

"He traveled on his own, visiting more than 12 countries in four years, searching for these elusive people, gathering their stories and documenting them in an easy and graphic prose."

-- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Journalist Skinner talked his way into slave markets on five continents to meet some of the estimated 27 million people worldwide forced to work for no pay."

-- Ms. Magazine's "Great Reads for Spring 2008"

"Skinner's opinion is informed by his definition of "slave": someone who is forced to work, under threat of violence, for no pay beyond subsistence. Going by this definition and the desire to humanize one of the globe's most devastating injustices, he spent the past five years traveling between five continents to infiltrate slave trafficking networks—at times negotiating sales undercover (but never buying human life)—and collecting the searing stories of more than 100 victims."

-- Mother Jones

"Skinner's great achievement is that he shines a light on the international slave trade, exposing the horrors of bondage not only through assiduous reporting and interviews with modern-day abolitionists and government officials, but by sharing the stories of several survivors. These poignant tales -- of people like Muong, a 12-year-old Dinka boy from southern Sudan, who is abducted (with his brother and mother) by an Arab slave driver; Tatiana, an Eastern European woman who is tricked into slavery when her boyfriend of six months finds her an "au pair" job in Amsterdam; and Gonoo, an Indian man in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh who inherits a debt from his father and spends his days working it off at a stone quarry -- illustrate the harsh realities of slavery while also offering some hope that former slaves can rebuild their lives."

-- salon.com

"Skinner’s account of the internal workings of the State Department and the deep links to faith-based antislavery groups and their special interests is seriously newsworthy and, at times, moving."

-- Publishers Weekly

"A Crime So Monstrous is well-written, daringly researched and eye opening, exposing modern-day slavery in shocking proximity. Through Skinner's gripping narrative style, the reader is able to match a face with the cause, a narrative to a statistic."

-- Human Rights Quarterly


25% of U.S. royalties go to Free The Slaves, a group that uses holistic, locally-based strategies through global partners to fight slavery, rehabilitate slaves and eradicate bondage. 25% of U.K. royalties go to the group's British sister, Anti-Slavery International, the world's oldest human rights organization.

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  • About the author

    Ben Skinner is Founder & Principal of Transparentem, a non-profit intelligence unit. Previously, as a journalist, he reported on diverse topics from five continents for Time, Newsweek International, Travel + Leisure, and others. His first book, A Crime So Monstrous, was awarded the 2009 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for nonfiction, as well as a citation from the Overseas Press Club in its book category for 2008. He was named an Adventurer of the Year 2008 by National Geographic Adventure.

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