The Power of One... The Strength of Many

Recommended Readings

book world

The Human Rights Book Club is focused on discussing local and international human rights issues in a casual and comfortable setting where you will be in good company. The club reads fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Anyone is welcomed to join at any time, and we look forward to reading with you.

2019-2020 Recommended Readings

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

On a southern plantation, an abandoned slave girl named Cora begins to feel increasingly pressured by her fellow slaves and her masters. Now an outcast after her mother Mabel left her behind, she receives a lifeline from a man named Caeser who proposes a plan of escape. Together, and with the help of an abolitionist, they seek passage aboard the underground trains of the Underground Railroad to a place further North where they can be free. Cora must find a safe refuge for herself in a world of slavery and violence, while dodging elite slave catcher Ridgeway who shares Cora’s resentment for her escapee mother Mabel whom he failed to capture. This historical fiction imagines a literal underground railroad taking escaped slaves along its tracks to various safe harbors.

Missoula – Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

Missoula, Montana, is a typical college town, with a highly regarded state university, bucolic surroundings, a lively social scene, and an excellent football team  the Grizzlies  with a rabid fan base. The Department of Justice investigated 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012. Few of these assaults were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.
In Missoula, Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula — the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

In this uniquely-formatted historical fiction taking place over a hundred years worth of generations, two connected family lines starting with Asante woman Maame and Fante woman Baaba tell a story that starts in the 1800s in Ghana and ends in the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1900s. This ambitious novel highlights several historical events throughout Ghana’s history, as well as the hardships experienced by its inhabitants and eventually expatriates.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

A perfect read for Hispanic Heritage Month from Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros, who tells a tale of struggles and coming-of-age for a teenage Latina girl trying to grow up in a Chicano and Puerto Rican neighborhood of Chicago. Esperanza Cordero’s attempts to invent herself in the present and for the future through both heartbreaking and joyous vignettes of her life. This award-winning young adult story is also a staple academic book for public education.

Tribe by Sebastian Junger

Junger combines history, psychology, and anthropology as he explores what tribal societies can teach us about loyalty, belonging, and humanity’s eternal quest to find meaning. He explains the irony that war feels better than peace, that adversity can turn into a blessing, and that disasters are more often more fondly remembered than the good moments in life. Tribe explains why humans are stronger when we come together and how we can achieve that in our presently divided world.

Other Recommended Books

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Explore America’s migration in our three-part book club meeting for this award-winning book by the first black female Pulitzer Prize winner, Isabel Wilkerson. Wilkerson tells the great untold story of the migration of nearly six million black citizens through the eyes of three characters as they uproot and move from the Southern states to the North in search of a better life. This extensively researched story tells not just how these people moved, but how they affected the world around them as they lived.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

This non-fiction book comes from journalist John Howard Griffin who, during the racial segregation in 1961, underwent a temporary procedure to darken his skin so he could take a six-week journey in racially segregated states and better understand what life on the other side of the color line was like. Along with photographer Don Rutledge, Griffin accrued a trove of photos and 188 pages in his diary detailing his experiences. His book went on to sell millions of copies, and opened the eyes of many Americans to the realities of racial segregation.

Waking Up White by Debby Irving

Irving tells the story of her 25 years sensing racial tension in personal and professional relationships, and her worries as a colleague and neighbor that she would offend those she wanted to befriend. As an arts administrator she did not understand why her diversity efforts lacked traction, and as a teacher she found her best efforts to reach out to students and families of color were missing something. After a revelatory moment in 2009, Irving launched an adventure of discovery and insight that would drastically shift her world view. Irving shares both the good and cringe-worthy moments of her story.

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

J.D. Vance reveals the decline of America’s white working class through the lens of his own family, which ascended to a middle class status after his grandparents fled to Ohio to escape the dreadful poverty in the Appalachian Mountain regions of Kentucky, and the difficulties that came along with their uplifting. As a Marine and Yale Law school graduate, Vance solidified the upward mobility of his family over the generations, but the abuse, trauma, alcoholism, and effects of poverty continued to haunt both his family and Vance himself while his parents, especially his mother, struggled to meet the demands of their new middle class lifestyle. Through this memoir on the chaos that followed Vance’s family he shares how the American Dream has become lost to a portion of the country, and how poverty can cripple a family through generations.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie

As an adaptation of her Tedx talk of the same name, Nigerian writer Chimanda Ngozi Adichie asks what feminism means in today’s world. This essay explores not just blatant discrimination, but insidious and institutionalized behaviors that marginalize women across the globe, and helps her readers understand the sometimes subtle realities of sexual politics. Her experiences in Nigeria and in the United States give her a strong insight into the gender divide and how it harms not just women, but men as well. Adichie, a best-selling author known for Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun, brings her style of humor and wit intermixed with serious observations into the field of feminism, and offers her unique definition of feminism which calls for inclusion and awareness. She artfully explains not just what it means to be a woman today, but why we should all be feminists.

Suggested Books for Teens

Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today by Lori M. Carlson

Ten short stories about contemporary native American teens by members of tribes of the United States and Canada, including Louise Erdrich and Joseph Bruchac.

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the reservation to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

When the Rain Sings: Poems by Young Native Americans

When the Rain Sings: Poems by Young Native Americans was created in partnership with Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers and includes some of the notable talents from Wordcraft’s Mentoring Initiative, a national program created to cultivate the writing abilities of Native youth. NMAI, with support from Wordcraft’s founding director Lee Francis (Laguna Pueblo), asked Native participants from Mentoring Initiatives throughout the United States to use objects and historic images from the museum’s unparalleled collections to spark their imagination. The uplifting, sometimes aching, responses of these poets, who range in age from nine to seventeen, invite readers into a world colored by joy, sadness, and memory.

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitech

Quincie Morris has never felt more alone. Her parents are dead, and her hybrid-werewolf first love is threatening to embark on a rite of passage that will separate them forever. Then, as she and her uncle are about to unveil their hot vampire-themed restaurant, a brutal murder leaves them scrambling for a chef. Can Quincie transform their new hire into a culinary Dark Lord before opening night? Can he wow the crowd in his fake fangs, cheap cape, and red contact lenses — or is there more to this earnest face than meets the eye? As human and preternatural forces clash, a deadly love triangle forms, and the line between predator and prey begins to blur. Who’s playing whom? And how long can Quincie play along before she loses everything?


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