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The Red Market: On the Trail of the World's Organ Brokers, Bone Theives, Blood Farmers, and Child Traffickers
William Morrow, 2011
272 pp., $25.99
Laura Bramon Good
Scott Carney's The Red Market is a brisk, bracing survey of the gristmills and carnage greasing globalization's invisible profit machines. A kind of Lonely Planet guide to some of the world's most profitable flesh trades, this gritty book forgoes the sad glitz of child sex trafficking to explore Asian and Indian Sub-Continent networks catering to U.S. and European demands for kidneys, children, bones, and hair.
Marking out these intimate correlations to Western consumers, The Red Market goes a fair way in puncturing the myth that only sex tourists patronize Asia's human trafficking trade. And in its author's own tentative bewilderment regarding what differentiates a living, breathing human being from a disincarnated bag of meat, is a reminder that the hidden universe of a human body is safeguarded with the greater mystery of a soul.
Flesh trade exposés generally tend toward the prurient, aggressive, or coolly academic. Carney manages a more humane stance by admitting his own naïvete up-front, in a chilling first chapter that recounts the horror and plain business of brokering a deceased college student's return from India to her hometown of New Orleans.
The victim of a late-night accident, "Emily" falls to her death on a cement courtyard at Bodh Gaya, a Buddhist monastery in remote, rural India. Her body lies just ten feet from the room where Carney, Emily's university exchange instructor, sleeps soundly through the night. The next morning, he awakes to the shock of stewarding the diplomatic debacle that Emily's "body now represents."
Perhaps the most striking moment—the moment of Carney's "conversion" to humility before the human body—comes when, at the request of Emily's family, he steps into an Indian autopsy room to photograph their daughter's body in preparation for a stateside postmortem.
There is "a sense of presence, which only accompanies life," Carney muses, stumbling his way toward the conclusion that this presence is best termed a soul. ...