ECHMIADZIN, Armenia — During his most recent visit to Armenia, internationally acclaimed novelist Chris Bohjalian visited Mer Doon, a home for orphaned and disadvantaged young women who have aged out of Armenia’s orphanage system. Bohjalian, the author of 10 New York Times bestsellers, including The Sandcastle Girls, met the residents of Mer Doon to learn about their experiences in Armenia’s orphanage system
Bohjalian and the girls engaged in a dynamic exchange of questions and answers in a round table discussion. Each resident introduced herself and related interesting and heartfelt life experiences. Bohjalian explained that storyline of The Guest Room was inspired by a trip to Armenia with his wife and daughter where they witnessed the plight of girls who are living on the streets and vulnerable to trafficking. The novel’s main characters are two 19-year-old girls from Armenia, who are abducted as teenagers, held captive as sex slaves in Russia throughout their adolescence, and then brought to New York City where the captors force them into the sex trade.
Bohjalian shared, “I was so impressed by the young women I met at Mer Doon and so moved by their stories. These are smart, courageous, remarkable young people. And I was so honored to glimpse the incredible work of Mer Doon. It is a home, with all that word connotes, and it is changing lives in meaningful and important ways.”
The International Labor Organization reports staggering statistics about global human trafficking. For example, human trafficking is a $150-billion industry. The ILO estimates 4.5 million people were forced into sexual exploitation globally in 2014.
According to the US State Department, perhaps three-quarters of a million people are trafficked across international borders every year — and there are the millions trafficked within their own countries.
About two million children every year are exploited in the global commercial sex trade.