Review Blog

Mar 08 2017

Here I stand: Stories that speak for freedom edited by Amnesty International UK

cover image

Walker Books, 2016. ISBN 9781406358384
(Age: 12+) Recommended. This hard cover collection of short stories and poems edited by Amnesty International is not what I first expected. The focus is not so much on political issues and human rights so much as the commonly encountered issues of bullying, abuse, self-identity, LGBT rights, exploitation, loneliness, and similar issues experienced by many young people. The authors are 25 leading writers and illustrators inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, writers such as Neil Gaiman, John Boyne, Tony Birch, Sita Brahmachasi, Kevin Brooks and others. They are simple stories that quickly draw you in and create a connection, leaving you afterwards with much food for further thought. As author Bali Rai writes, 'My story is designed to make you think about what makes us human. I hope that it does.' And all of the stories do make you reflect on humanity.
The last story in the book is different, and is more political. 'Speaking out for freedom' is an interview with Chelsea Manning, an intelligence analyst imprisoned for 35 years for revealing what she had learnt about 'the secret reality of the way the Iraq War was being fought'. To this day she believes what she did was the right thing to do, and although she was very afraid she felt she had to take a stand and speak out.
This is the message of the book as a whole - making a stand for our common humanity, whether it is regarding the bullied child in school, the victim of racism or the child being abused. We have to care about rights and freedoms and speak up for them when they are under attack. In his introduction to the collection, human rights lawyer Jules Carey urges us all to care, question, and act.
Teachers' notes Using fiction to explore human rights are available.
Helen Eddy

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