2012 Human Rights Book Club List:
A Thousand Splendid Suns
By Khaled Hosseini
They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky
By Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, Benjamin Ajak, with Judy A. Bernstein
They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky is a true story of three "Lost Boys of Sudan," who recall their harrowing journey out of the devastation of war and into safety. Alephonsion Deng, Benson Deng, and Benjamin Ajak were raised among the Dinka tribe of Sudan. Their world was an insulated, close-knit community of grass-roofed cottages, cattle herders, and tribal councils, until the government-armed Murahiliin began attacking their villages. All under the age of 7, they fled. Their journey took them over 1,000 miles across a war-ravaged country, through landmine-sown paths, crocodile-infested waters, and extremes of hunger, thirst, and disease. Even the refugee camps they eventually filtered through offered little respite from the brutality they were fleeing. Click here for discussion questions.
By Warren St. John
Outcasts United is the story of a soccer team comprised of young male refugees, the remarkable woman who coaches them, and the town where they live – a once-sleepy southern hamlet that has been upended by the process of refugee resettlement. It is a tale about resilience, the power of one person to make a difference, and the daunting challenge of creating community in a place where people seem to have little in common. Click here for discussion questions.
Praying for Sheetrock
By Melissa Fay Greene
The award-winning book Praying for Sheetrock is the true story rural black residents living in the isolated, coastal beauty of McIntosh County, Georgia. It is the saga of how, thanks to the leadership of a black shop-steward-turned-county-commissioner named Thurnell Alston, together with Legal Services lawyers, challenged the corrupt leadership through several means, including a voting-rights case. Such "second generation" voting-rights cases dealt with the reality that although black individuals had the right to vote, they faced attempted “dilution” of their vote through various devices such as at-large districts (so that whites could outvote blacks), runoff primaries, and other measures. When the Voting Rights Act was renewed in 1982, vote-dilution was made illegal, even if it was unintentional. Click here for discussion questions.
The Tortilla Curtain
By T.C. Boyle
In his most popular novel, T.C. Boyle confronts the often controversial issue of undocumented immigration head-on, illuminating through a poignant, gripping story the people on both sides of the issue, the haves and the have-nots. Boyle weaves a narrative of two couples and a violent chance encounter that brings them together, instigating a chain of events that eventually culminates in a harrowing confrontation. The novel shifts back and forth between the two couples, giving voice to each of the four main characters as their lives become inextricably intertwined and their worlds collide. Click here for discussion questions.
Other Recommended Reads in 2012:
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
By Maya Angelou
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the 1969 autobiography about the early years of African-American writer and poet Maya Angelou. During the course of the book, Maya is transformed from a victim of racism with an inferiority complex into a self-possessed, dignified young woman capable of responding to prejudice. Click here for the discussion questions.
By Chris Cleave
Little Bee is a dual narrative about a Nigerian asylum seeker and a British magazine editor, who meet during the oil conflict in the Niger Delta, and are re-united in England several years later. The novel examines the treatment of refugees by the asylum system, as well as issues of colonialism, globalization, political violence and personal accountability. Click here for the discussion questions.
By Elie Wiesel
Night is a classic work by Elie Wiesel about his experience with his father, Shlomo, in the Nazi German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald in 1944–1945, at the height of the Holocaust and toward the end of WWII. Click here for the discussion questions.
What the Body Remembers
By Shauna Singh Baldwin
What The Body Remembers is a novel out of the rich culture of India and the brutal drama of the 1947 Partition about two women married to the same man. The book details the complex relationship between these two women and their husband as India lurches toward independence and drastic change. Click here for the discussion questions.
2011 Book Club List:
Half the Sky
By Nicholas Kristof and Cheryl WuDunn
With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as guides, the book undertakes an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there, among them a Cambodian teenager sold into sex slavery and an Ethiopian woman who suffered devastating injuries in childbirth. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope. The authors show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad, and ultimately support human rights for all people. Click here for discussion questions.
By Shirin Ebadi
In her book, Ebadi recounts her public career and reveals her private self: her faith, her experiences, and her desire to lead a traditional life, even while serving as a rebellious voice in a land where such voices are muted and even silenced by brute force. Ebadi describes her girlhood in a modest Tehran household, her education, and her early professional success as Iran’s most accomplished female jurist in the mid-1970s. She speaks eloquently about the ideals of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and of her deep disillusionment with the direction Iran has taken since. Click here for discussion questions.
Waiting for Snow in Havana
By Carlos Eire
Noted religion scholar Carlos Eire's idyllic and privileged childhood in Havana came to an end in the wake of Castro's revolution. In this memoir, he reveals an exotic, magical Cuba and an eccentric family: his father - a municipal judge and art collector - believed that in a past life he had been King Louis XVI. In 1962, Carlos Eire's world changed forever when he and his brother were among the 14,000 children airlifted off the island, their parents left behind. In chronicling his life before and after his arrival in America, Mr. Eire's personal story is also a meditation on loss and suffering, redemption and rebirth. Click here for discussion questions.
Say You’re One of Them
By Uwem Akpan
Each story in this acclaimed collection pays testament to the wisdom and resilience of children, even in the face of the most agonizing circumstances. A family living in a makeshift shanty in urban Kenya scurries to find gifts of any kind for the impending Christmas holiday. A Rwandan girl relates her family’s struggles to maintain a facade of normalcy amid unspeakable acts. A young brother and sister cope with their uncle’s attempt to sell them into slavery. Aboard a bus filled with refugees—a microcosm of today’s Africa—a Muslim boy summons his faith to bear a treacherous ride across Nigeria. Through the eyes of childhood friends the emotional toll of religious conflict in Ethiopia becomes viscerally clear. Author Uwem Akpan was born in southern Nigeria. After studying philosophy and English at Creighton and Gonzaga universities, he studied theology for three years at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 2003 and received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan in 2006. Click here for discussion questions.
Do They Hear You When You Cry?
By Fauziya Kassindja
The youngest daughter of a prosperous Muslim businessman in Togo, a tiny nation in West Africa, author Fauziya Kassindja lived a charmed life. She was adored and spoiled by her father, who encouraged her precocious nature and intellect, allowed her privileges denied his other daughters and sons and sent her to high school in Ghana, just across the border, not a traditional upbringing for girls in Togo. Yet it was not only about matters of education that Kassindja's father defied tradition. He married outside his tribe and declined to take more than one wife. He forced neither his wife nor his five daughters to wear the traditional veil. And he defied the custom of his own tribe and allowed none of his daughters to be circumcised. After he father’s death and in the face of a forced marriage and circumcision, Fauziya Kassindja ran away from home and, like so many immigrants before her, came to America in search of freedom. Click here for discussion questions.
By Tatiana de Rosnay
Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours. Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, Jarmond begins an inquiry that raises issues of healing, truth, and recovery from mass atrocity. Author Tatiana de Rosnay offers a subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode. Click here for discussion questions.
2010 Book Club List:
Reading Lolita in Tehran
By Azar Nafisi
Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Azar Nafisi, a bold and inspired teacher, secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, as fundamentalists seized hold of the universities and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the women in Nafisi's living room spoke not only of the books they were reading but also about themselves, their dreams and disappointments. Azar Nafisi's luminous masterwork gives us a rare glimpse, from the inside, of women's lives in revolutionary Iran.
The Daughter of L'Arsenal
By Kao Kalia Yang
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