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Books & Authors, Diverse Voices

International Human Rights Day

December 10th is International Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the day that the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Celebrate with these inspiring and difficult stories of resilience in the face of injustice.

 

A Long Way Gone : Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
In the more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated that there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. In A Long Way Gone, Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he'd been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found that he was capable of truly terrible acts.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
From Pulitzer Prize-winner Katherine Boo, a landmark work of narrative nonfiction that tells the dramatic and sometimes heartbreaking story of families striving toward a better life in one of the twenty-first century's great, unequal cities.

Caste : The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Beyond race, class, or other factors, there is a powerful caste system that influences people's lives and behavior and the nation's fate. Linking the caste systems of America, India, and Nazi Germany, Wilkerson explores eight pillars that underlie caste systems across civilizations, including divine will, bloodlines, stigma, and more. Using riveting stories about people--including Martin Luther King, Jr., baseball's Satchel Paige, a single father and his toddler son, Wilkerson herself, and many others--she shows the ways that the insidious undertow of caste is experienced every day.

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life-like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family's future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition-Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles.

I Am Malala : The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday October 9, 2012, she almost paid the ultimate price.

Just Mercy : A True Story of the Fight for Justice by Bryan Stevenson
In this very personal work--adapted from the original #1 bestseller, which the New York Times calls "as compelling as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so"--renowned lawyer and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson offers a glimpse into the lives of the wrongfully imprisoned and his efforts to fight for their freedom as the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. Stevenson's story is one of working to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society--the poor, the wrongly convicted, and those whose lives have been marked by discrimination and marginalization.

Long Walk to Freedom : The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. by Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was one of the great moral and political leaders of his time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. After his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela was at the center of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world. As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa's antiapartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule.

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the girls in Azar Nafisi's living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov.

Say Nothing : A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
Masked intruders dragged Jean McConville, a 38-year-old widow and mother of 10, from her Belfast home in 1972. Jean McConville's abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. Patrick Radden Keefe's mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee : Native America From 1890 to the Present by David Treuer
Tracing the Sioux tribes' distinctive cultures from first contact, he explores how the depredations of each era spawned new modes of survival. The devastating seizures of land gave rise to increasingly sophisticated legal and political maneuvering that put the lie to the myth that Indians don't know or care about property. The forced assimilation of their children at government-run boarding schools incubated a unifying Native identity. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is the essential, intimate story of a resilient people in a transformative era.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells--taken without her knowledge--became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer and viruses; helped lead to in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave. Her family did not learn of her "immortality" until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. The story of the Lacks family is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.

 

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