Just 33 years old, Corban Addison is following in the footsteps of novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe. She wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin 160 years ago and helped end slavery in the United States.
Addison, whose novel A Walk Across the Sun was just published, wants to help end global sex slavery. His challenge may be even bigger than Stowe's.
American slavery only ended after the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation, and a constitutional amendment. Sex slavery is less visible, already illegal, and tied with organized crime and government corruption around the world.
Addison landed an endorsement for his work from bestselling author John Grisham, who seldom writes book cover blurbs praising another author's work. And Addison's story includes some Grisham trademarks: fast-paced action, a lawyer torn between making big bucks and helping people, hints of faith without any sermons. In doing so, Addison puts names and faces on an issue that may seem distant and abstract.
The story takes Washington lawyer Thomas Clarke to India for pro bono legal work to fight sex trafficking. Clarke's world intersects with two Indian girls who lose their parents in a tsunami. Not everyone lives happily ever after, but Addison tells a story like Grisham. Will the good guys win? Is the pursuit of justice worth it in a world full of evil?
Addison lived in Indiana in his early years, then his family moved to California when he was in elementary school. His mother, Judi, homeschooled him and his younger brother for several years, and he knows that homeschoolers can get stereotyped.
"There is no shame in it," Addison told me in a telephone interview. "Homeschooling really helped me to learn how to educate myself."
After receiving an engineering degree from California Polytechnic State University, Addision earned a law degree at the University of Virginia. He lives in Virginia now.
The itch for stories came at a young age. Addison read all the Hardy Boys he could find and then graduated as a teen to books by Grisham, along with Tom Clancy and Pat Conroy. "I got really interested in plot-driven books, the Hardy Boys, adventure books," he said.
The topic of his novel is one of the few issues that attracts some political and social consensus in the United States.
"Human trafficking unites people in opposition-liberals and conservatives, people of faith and people of no faith at all," Addison said. "I want to find that strand of conscience that is common to all people."
His next novel continues with the social justice theme-human rights in southern Africa.