Amnesty International is an organization that strives to protect human rights around the world by raising awareness and recognition of these issues. They investigate areas where human rights are less than ideal and work to educate people on these issues as well as to mobilize people and their governments into action so that they might prevent any further violations of these rights. They are dedicated to granting every person on the globe the same, equal rights, freedoms, and dignity as everyone else, so that the world can be a safer place for everyone to live.
To learn more about Amnesty International (and to join up, if you are interested), you can go to their official website: http://www.amnestyusa.org/ .
Amnesty International is not the only way you can learn more about human rights. Many YA novels deal with the issue as well. Check under the cut for a few books we’ve chosen that deal with the matter. Many of these books deal with subject matter that might be difficult to read, but they are experienced by people around the world every day.
Sold by: Patricia McCormick
Lakshmi is a thirteen year old girl living in the mountains of Nepal. Her family doesn’t have much, but she is still able to find enjoyment in life. Until a flood washes away everything her family owns and her step-father brings her to city in order to find a job to help support the family. He brings her to a place called the House of Happiness and leaves her there, and Lakshmi quickly realizes that she has been sold into prostitution.
The madam of the brothel tells her she must stay there and work until she can pay off her family’s debt, but this is an impossible task as Lakshmi is constantly cheated out of the money she earns there. Her life becomes a nightmare, full of horror and violation, but also friendship with the other girls and hope that she might one day be able to leave.
This novel in verse (told through poems) illustrates the very real situations many poor girls living in South East Asia. Girls even younger than Lakshmi are sold by their own family members into this horrible trade against their wills. But there are people working to save them so that this situation is no longer an every day occurrence.
When My Name Was Keoko by: Linda Sue Park
Sun-hee and her brother Tae-yul live in Korea with their parents during World War II. Their lives were thrown into upheaval a few years ago when the Japanese invaded their country. Now, everyone must go by Japanese names, the children must speak Japanese in school, and every shred of Korean culture is in danger of being wiped out.
And if that wasn’t enough, the Japanese also expect the Korean civilians to fight in the Japanese army in the war. To Sun-hee’s surprise her brother Tae-yul volunteers to fight in order to protect his family, specifically their uncle who is suspected of being a key player in the Korean resistance. Sun-hee must stay home and endure hardship from the local Japanese soldiers as she tries to protect her family. If they are discovered it could mean death for them and everyone they know, regardless of whether they were involved or not.
War always brings out the worst in people, but the Japanese army during World War II was notorious for the war crimes that were committed in Korea. It was a very dangerous time and an entire culture was almost wiped out. If not for brave families like Sun-hee’s who stood up against the injustice, Korea today might be a part of Japan.
Night by: Elie Wiesel
This is the true story of author Elie Wiesel who, along with his father, experienced the horrors of the concentration camps in Buchenwald and Auschwitz during World War II. They were interned in the camps from 1944-1945 at the height of the Holocaust. The Nazis captured them because they were Jewish with the intention of exterminating them, viewing them as the cause of all of their problems.
The novel is short, but packs a powerful punch. It describes the horrors Wiesel and his father lived through, as well as the way it changes his world view from a hopeful innocent to a jaded, angry young man with a distaste for humanity and resentment for everyone, including his father. But the novel also comes with the message that this all happened because humanity was allowed to sink to it’s most evil and that we must, at all costs, never allow it to happen again.
There are many novels that take place during the Holocaust that accurately portray the indignities people suffered at the hands of the Nazi party. But this novel is true, an autobiography of someone who actually lived through it, complete with his own thoughts on his experiences in the camps. Nothing is sugarcoated, which allows us to see the real, actual effects of this gross violation of human rights so that we might remind ourselves never to let something like this happen in our future.
Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by: Mildred D. Taylor
Cassie Logan and her brothers and sisters live in the Southern United States during the Depression era. Times were hard for everyone then, but especially for the Logans and people like them who happened to be African American. Slavery was over by the 1930s, but racial tensions and prejudices were still rampant. It was very common for people to be persecuted and killed just for the color of their skin. And it was also common for their white killers to not receive justice.
The Logans are fairly affluent for their situation, though. They own land, which they earn their livelihood from, and which enrages their white neighbors. As Cassie grows up, she recognizes this and slowly begins to understand the concept of racism and how it affects her daily life. She is humiliated at school by her white peers, a friend of their family is tarred and feathered, and two men are burned to death simply for the “crime” of being black. Cassie is told she must suffer through this silently, that she must stay quiet and know her place, but she knows this is wrong and she won’t stand for it.
The United States has not been immune from committing violations of human rights. African Americans only very recently have gained civil liberties to make them equal under the law to their white countrymen. The period of time following the abolition of slavery up until 1965 became known as the Jim Crow era, where the United States government enacted laws to keep the races segregated and it wasn’t uncommon for white people to act out of cruelty to keep black people down. This novel takes place during those times and illustrates the injustices American people had to face in their own homeland by their own countrymen.
I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban by: Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb
Pakistan is a coutnry where women have very little rights. Girls are allowed to go to school, but the Taliban does not like it and takes any measure necessary to bully them out of going.They do this in order to keep them illiterate and unaware of the world around them so that when they grow up, they will not try to change the country and gain power for themselves.
But Malala Yousafzai wouldn’t stand for that. From a young age, she was taught the importance of education and she recognizes that she, as a human being, has the right to receive one. And so she defied them. She went to school anyway, knowing the dangers she and her schoolmates could face. She was adamant about how she and her female classmates would go to school despite what the Taliban said, and for that she was almost killed.
In October of 2012, when Malala was 15 the Taliban stopped the van she was riding to school on, singled her out, and shot her in the face. She was in critical condition for weeks before finally surviving the attack and moving to England where she is continuing her education. While the Taliban is still at large, she cannot return to her home in Pakistan without being executed, but she still works her hardest as an activist to raise awareness of the situation in Pakistan and to bring civil rights to women in her home country.
This is Malala’s story in her own words, a true account of what life was like living under the Taliban and how she rose up to survive and fight them when they tried to have her killed. This is still an ongoing issue in the Middle East today and Malala and other girls like her are raising awareness and trying to gain the human rights they are owed.
If you would like to check out any of these books, simply come to the library and ask for them. Or, you can fill out our book request form.