Annu Subramanian is the director of the Writing Center at Brown School, Schenectady, New York. She co-founded Albany Women Connection, a support group in Albany, New York. She was chosen as one of four national finalists by the Norman Mailer Center and National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in 2011 for her short story, SO FAIR AND VERY LOVELY. She was chosen as Educator of Excellence in 2011 by the New York State English Council.
Her latest book is the factu-fiction, Another Heaven.
Visit her website at www.annusubramanian.com.
About the Book:
Annu Subramanian's new novel, ANOTHER HEAVEN, exposes with unflinching honesty and deep psychological insight the twisted relationship between terrorism and human trafficking. ANOTHER HEAVEN may be difficult to digest in part, but its frankness and refusal to turn away from the unsparing horror of its terrible premise make the book an essential addition to the literature of terrorism and its links to international human trafficking.
Subramanian, a self-described “writer of conscience,” employs her considerable literary skills in the service of shining a bright light on human rights abuses and terrorism. In her previous novel, WAITING FOR THE PERFECT DAWN, Subramanian focused on bringing awareness about the suppression of women and domestic violence.
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It’s a pleasure to have you at the book club, Annu! You describe your book, Another Heaven, as a factu-fiction. Can you explain to us what that is and how it applies to your book?
Annu: ANOTHER HEAVEN is fiction that is based on current events of terrorism and human trafficking. I chose to address these global issues through fiction instead of presenting facts through non-fiction—by using life-like characters and day-to-day episodes—to help my readers relate better to human trafficking and terrorism. While teaching a high school course titled Eastern Literature, my research invariably led to two global issues; human trafficking and terrorism. Compelled by the more recent events involving acts of terrorism, I decided to write this research-based novel. An incident that occurred close to my home in India, an explosion that was triggered at the end of a dispute between two religious groups, cemented the purpose in my mind to expose the atrocities associated with human trafficking and terrorism, and I began to write the first chapter of ANOTHER HEAVEN. This is a story I had to tell.
Even though this book is fiction, it focuses on human trafficking where thousands of children, women and men fall into the hands of controlling and manipulative people who exploit them in ways that are incomprehensible. You wrote your book to bring everything to light. What kind of research did you do in order to write this?
Annu: I read news articles, journal abstracts, books on psychological manipulation, and spoke to professionals and listened to talks. My research showed me how human trafficking operates as an organized criminal activity. It is a horrific violation of human rights where thousands of children, women, and men fall into the hands of traffickers, either in their own countries or somewhere abroad. The victims are controlled, terrorized, exploited, and forced into prostitution and indentured labor. ANOTHER HEAVEN, my novel, sheds light on a different reason for human trafficking; how the victims are manipulated and shaped into missionaries of terrorism. My novel focuses on three elements: human rights abuse, extreme religious beliefs, and psychological deception of terrorism, and the three elements feed each other.
Can you give us a brief description of the main characters in your book?
Annu: Main character: Tina Matthew- an American doctoral student in the field of psychology from Pennsylvania. She goes to India for an internship in counter-terrorism, and her visit changes her life forever.
Dr. Neil Shaker - An American psychoanalyst who is on a temporary assignment in Chennai, India (Tina’s mentor). In some ways, he becomes Tina’s ally.
Usman- antagonist (a master terrorist who recruits and trains missionaries for terrorism-some of the missions are terminal). His single-minded goal of attaining salvation and reaching heaven at any cost, even at the loss of several lives, is the reason for the title of the novel.
Maya- the key victim of human trafficking. Her horrific and tragic experiences change the course of the novel. While completing her thesis in India, Tina unknowingly is thrown into a terrorist’s plot based on religious fanaticism. With the help of her mentor, Dr. Shaker, she learns how Usman executes his crazed religious righteousness through psychological manipulation of trafficked victims. After encountering real-life trauma faced by the victims, Tina’s resolution to address terrorism turns into a passion and becomes her calling.
In your native land of India, was human trafficking more or less a problem than in the U.S.? Can you give us an example of what you saw in India?
Annu: I see (through news articles and my conversations with like-minded individuals) that human trafficking is a growing problem, not only in India but everywhere. It has become a global issue.
Many incidents occur in the USA which are consequences of human trafficking. Here is the link to an incident that occurred in the suburb of Albany, NY. Young women are unwittingly drawn into horrific situations, and it is very hard for them to get back to normal lives.
When ANOTHER HEAVEN was launched in Albany, New York, during a panel discussion on human rights, I dedicated the event’s proceeds to Aapne Aap, a grassroots movement in India that is struggling to end sex trafficking. In fact, my novel is dedicated to victims of human trafficking, and the proceeds benefit organizations helping victims of human trafficking.
What can we do as citizens to help in the fight to stop human trafficking or is that the million dollar question?
Annu: We have to approach human trafficking as a universal concern. It is an organized criminal activity, a billion-dollar industry ( http://www.prajwalaindia.com/).
It is very hard to break through the many-layered organizations which thrive on human trafficking. Nevertheless, we must work as a community to address this epidemic. We can discuss this issue regularly through news media, magazine articles, and videos. I welcome opportunities to talk about human trafficking at local libraries and support groups to raise awareness about this global issue.
What have been some of the responses from those who have read your book?
Annu: The readers are shocked but glad to see that a book is available that covers two global issues, human trafficking and terrorism, under one project.
Here are some of their comments:
“The basic message of the novel seems to me to be one of hope.”
“Another Heaven by Annu Subramanian is a vital book for our time.”
“...a fascinating story with a suspenseful plot and rich with characters you care about and root for until the end.”
“I was hooked to the novel right from the prologue!”
“Another Heaven is a dauntless effort to protect mankind from the snares of the universally abhorred demon called Terrorism.”
“The book adds to our communal knowledge about why terrorism takes hold and perpetuates in our world.”
“This novel exposes the readers to the psychology behind terrorism.”
“A story that will remain in your mind forever!”
“This book is soaked with emotion and wrenches your heart strings.”
What would say was one of the most pivotal parts of your book?
Annu: This is the scene where the key victim of human trafficking is going through the last stages of brainwashing while she is being prepared by her ‘Master’ (the primary member of the terrorist organization) for a terminal mission:
“I’m all you have, Maya,” Usman whispered softly, intoxicatingly, gently pulling the sheet to reveal her bare body. He opened a tube of ointment and methodically applied the balm on her gaping wounds. He covered her body with the sheet again and rested his hand on her shoulder. “I’m all you have, Maya. Your father sold you. Your fiancé abandoned you. Your society discarded you. You’ve nothing to live for. Will you do anything I ask you to do? Will you promise me to do anything I ask you to do?”
In this scene, Dr. Shaker (a psychoanalyst) and Tina Matthew (the doctoral student who is working on her research in counter-terrorism) are questioning Usman, the terrorist, in his prison cell. After several interviews over a few weeks, the prisoner’s unbending conviction that he would go to heaven, despite the atrocious crimes he has committed, shows how far he has himself been brainwashed during the course of his career.
“Why?” asked Shaker, disconcerted by Usman’s cool, collected tone.
“The end of all means is the beginning.”
“What do you mean by that?” Tina asked boldly. All the maddening emotions she had suffered in the past converged and made her heart miserably heavy.
“That means, Miss Matthew, I might go now, not exist anymore, but my mission will never end. So you see, there is really no death for me. My mission is my life, my every breath, my heart and soul. And when I stop existing in your world, my heaven will accept me with open arms. My end will result in a new beginning. My mission will thrive in another hand.”
Is there anything else you’d like tell your readers or the public in general?
Annu: Human trafficking is not an isolated incident that is happening in a remote part of our world. It is a rising universal issue that is affecting our global community. I have tried to use ANOTHER HEAVEN as a bold campaign against human trafficking and terrorism. I hope my novel reaches my readers as a movement against human rights abuse.
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