Plano Reads: Human Rights Day
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Plano Reads: Human Rights Day

In recognition of the United Nations’ Human Rights Day on Saturday, December 10, our focus this month is on titles and authors which explore various human rights issues, here in the United States and in countries around the world. As the year comes to an end, may you find these books both interesting and challenging!


Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith E. Heumann – One of the most influential disability rights activists in US history tells her personal story of fighting for the right to receive an education, have a job, and just be human in a world that wasn’t built for all of us. Print |eBook |Audiobook 

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson – Isabel Wilkerson gives us a masterful portrait of an unseen phenomenon in America as she explores how America today and throughout its history has been shaped by a hidden caste system, a rigid hierarchy of human rankings. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents is an eye-opening story of people and history, and a reexamination of what lies under the surface of ordinary lives and of America life today. Print |eBook |Audiobook |CD/Play 

The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir by Samantha Power – Tracing her distinctly American journey from immigrant to war correspondent to presidential Cabinet official, Samantha Power’s acclaimed memoir is a unique blend of suspenseful storytelling, vivid character portraits, and shrewd political insight. In it this long-time human rights activist makes a compelling moral argument for her idealistic and optimistic view of human experience. Print |eBook 

Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad by Matthew F. Delmont – This is an important history of how Black American citizens contributed their skills and bravery to the war efforts leading up to and during World War II, only to return to the US as second-class citizens. Many faced racially-motivated assaults back home, and were denied housing and educational benefits that returning White soldiers received. Civil Rights expert Matthew F. Delmont shines a light on the battles that black veterans and citizens had to fight, even against their own government and fellow Americans, and how these racial justice issues have influenced (and continue) today. Print 

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn – With Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn as guides, we undertake an odyssey through Africa and Asia to meet the extraordinary women struggling there. Drawing on the breadth of their combined reporting experience, Kristof and WuDunn depict our world with anger, sadness, clarity, and, ultimately, hope. They show how a little help can transform the lives of women and girls abroad. The key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. The authors make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part. Print |eBook 

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 in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. In 2012, when she was 15, she was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school. Malala’s miraculous recovery took her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At 17, she became a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest recipient ever of the Nobel Peace Prize. Print |eBook |Audiobook 

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder – In this nonfiction classic, Pulitzer-Prize winner Tracy Kidder immerses himself in  the life of medical anthropologist and global physician Dr. Paul Farmer. In medical school, Paul Farmer found his life’s calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most.  Profound and powerful, Mountains Beyond Mountains takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Dr. Farmer changes people’s minds through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.”  Print 

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir – Simone de Beauvoir’s masterwork is a powerful analysis of the Western notion of “woman,” and a landmark exploration of inequality and otherness. Vital and groundbreaking, Beauvoir’s pioneering and impressive text remains as pertinent today as it was sixty years ago, and will continue to provoke and inspire generations of men and women to come. Print 


Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje – Anil Tissera, born in Sri Lanka, educated in England and America, is a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human rights group to work with local officials to discover the source of the organized campaigns of murder engulfing her native island. Michael Ondaatje has written a spellbinding a story about love, about family, about identity, about the unknown enemy, about the quest to unlock the hidden past–all propelled by a riveting and ghostly mystery. Print|Large Print|CD/Play

In the Midst of Winter /Más allá del invierno by Isabel Allende – An unexpected traffic accident on a winter afternoon in New York connects three very different people in Isabel Allende’s recent novel. It is a personal and  heartfelt exploration of human rights and the plight of refugees–in the United States, Guatemala, and 1970s Chile and Brazil. Also available in Spanish as Más allá del invierno. Print |eBook/Spanish |Audiobook |CD/Play  

Little Family by Ishmael Beah – Ismael Beah, born in Sierra Leone, is the author of the memoir A Long Way Gone, and a UNICEF Ambassador and Advocate for Children Affected by War. He has written a powerful new novel about young people living at the margins of society, struggling to replace the homes they have lost with the one they have created together. Hidden away from a harsh outside world, five young people have improvised a home in an abandoned airplane, a relic of their African nation’s tumultuous past. A profound and tender portrayal of the connections we forge to survive the fate we’re dealt, told in Beah’s uniquely global voice. Print

Sea Prayer / Súplica a la mar by Khaled Hosseini – A brief novel composed in the form of a letter, from a father to his son, on the eve of their journey. Watching over his sleeping son, the father reflects on the dangerous sea-crossing that lies before them. It is also a vivid portrait of their life in Homs, Syria, before the war, and of that city’s swift transformation from a home into a deadly war zone. Also Print | eBook | Print/Spanish

For Younger Readers

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys – At the Castellana Hilton in 1957 Madrid, eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson connects with Ana Moreno through photography and fate as Daniel discovers the incredibly dark side of the city under Generalissimo Franco’s rule. Print |eBook |Audiobook |Play |LP  (Fiction)

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott, with art by Harmony Becker – A graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei’s childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II.  Long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future. In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard. They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire. GN|eBook (Graphic Novel)

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz; adapted by Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese – Going beyond the story of America as a country “discovered” by a few brave men in the “New World,” Indigenous human rights advocate Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz reveals the roles that settler colonialism and policies of American Indian genocide played in forming our national identity. The original academic text is fully adapted by renowned curriculum experts Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza, for middle-grade and young adult readers to include discussion topics, archival images, original maps, recommendations for further reading, and other materials to encourage students, teachers, and general readers to think critically about their own place in history. Print |eBook (Nonfiction)

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