Human Rights Book Club

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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. 

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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

By Laura Hillenbrand

 

This book takes readers on the true odyssey of former juvenile delinquent turned Olympian runner Louis Zamperini, who finds himself surrounded by thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. It is a story that explores atrocities within the Asian Pacific Theater of WWII and testifies to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit. 

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The New Jim Crow

By Michelle Alexander

Jim Crow laws were wiped off the books decades ago, but today an extraordinary percentage of the African American community is warehoused in prisons or trapped in a parallel social universe, denied basic civil and human rights—including the right to vote; the right to serve on juries; and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community—and all of us—to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America. 

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A Walk Across the Sun
 
By Corban Addison

A Walk Across the Sun tells of a chilling, eye-opening journey into Mumbai’s underworld and the nightmare of two orphaned girls swept into the international sex trade. Halfway across the world in Washington, D.C., attorney Thomas Clarke faces pursues pro bono work to prosecute the traffickers, setting a stage for a riveting showdown with an international network of ruthless criminals. 

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Les Miserables

By Victor Hugo

First published in 1862, Les Misérables is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. Beginning in 1815 and culminating in 1832 June Rebellion in Paris, the novel follows the lives and interactions of several characters, focusing on the struggles of ex-convict Jean Valjean and his experience of redemption. Themes of revolution, the clash between freedom and security, and changing social codes transcend time, finding meaning in contemporary conflicts around the world. 

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
By Jamie Ford

 

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a story set during one of most conflicted and volatile times in American history, the Japanese American internment period of 1942. Henry and Keiko forge a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcends the long-standing prejudices of their Old World ancestors. After Keiko and her family are swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps, she and Henry are left only with the hope that the war will end, and that their promise to each other will be kept. 

 

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We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda
By Philip Gourevitch

 

We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families is a nonfiction account of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. In April 1994, the Rwandan government called upon everyone in the Hutu majority to kill each member of the Tutsi minority, and over the next three months 800,000 Tutsis perished in the most unambiguous case of genocide since Hitler’s war against the Jews. This book is an anatomy of the war in Rwanda, a vivid history of the tragedy’s background, and an unforgettable account of its aftermath. 

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A Thousand Splendid Suns

By Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story by author Khaled Hosseini set against the volatile events of Afghanistan's last thirty years. From the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to the post-Taliban rebuilding, it puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of the country in intimate and human terms. The book chronicles the stories of women and girls experiencing violence in public, as well as in their homes. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives—the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness—are inextricable from the history playing out around them. 

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They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky

By Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, and Benjamin Ajak

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 war and into safety. Alephonsion Deng, Benson Deng, and Benjamin Ajak were raised among the Dinka tribe, an insulated, close-knit community of grass-roofed cottages, cattle herders, and tribal councils, until the government-armed Murahiliin began attacking their villages. They fled, and 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.