The Story of Two Women who Risked Everything in the International Drug Trade
Asale Angel-Ajani
(Berkeley: Seal Press, 2010), 325 pages.
 
Much has been written about the global drug trade, the international cartels, and the men at the top, creating an illusion that women are not a part of this illicit business. In Strange Trade, author Asale Angel-Ajani shatters this stereotype with an intimate account of two African women involved in drug trafficking, who were brought together in Italy’s Rebibbia prison. Angel-Ajani’s retelling of their narratives, as well as her own experiences, makes this book not only a story of the drug trade, but also one of the author’s adventures researching this dangerous subject.

The greatest lesson communicated by this book is that women are not necessarily mules and victims. As demonstrated in the stories of “the Ugandan,” some women “chose the business” and lead their own international cartels. One of the women’s tales offers a stark contradiction of the stereotypical female experience: a desperate victim tricked into becoming a mule.

Angel-Ajani offers glimpses into subjects that could be books in themselves: the horrors of the Liberia’s civil war, life in Rebibbia Prison and refugee camps, the business of global drug trafficking operations, and more. These glimpses only graze the surface, and when combined with the author’s quick transitions between individual viewpoints and timeframes, often make the work seem disorganized and prevent the reader from connecting with the women.

Perhaps the strongest connection made is that with the author and the consistent interjection of her own emotions and experiences in the narrative. While this adds a personal touch to the book, an academic audience might find it unnecessary and distracting. Including additional facts and data would have made this a stronger and more attractive read to academics who will not find much scholarly content to add to their personal research. But to readers interested in female experiences in drug trafficking, this is a worthy and quick read.