Injustice is happening all across the world — it's something we've come to understand and, unfortunately even expect, as we read the headlines daily. But even when things seem dire, there's hope in all the bad news, and we find it in reading stories about heroes big and small that move us and help us realize that things can change. As you travel across the globe in these seven stories, peeking into different cultures, you'll be reminded of the courage, hope, and bravery of the human spirit that helps us rise above even the worst in the world.
'Reading Lolita in Tehran' by Azar Nafisi
Azar Nafisi invites us into the turbulent world of Tehran, the capital of Iran, during the Islamic Revolution that culminated in the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini. Under his regime, women were forced to wear the veil or risk being rounded up by squads that threatened to beat them into submission, a practice that continues to this day. As creative women suppressed by their government, Nafisi and a few of her female students found a small way to rebel and retain their humanity through reading banned books. Their powerful story gives us a renewed appreciation for our own freedoms.
'Someone Knows My Name' by Lawrence Hill
Hill depicts human bondage as it’s rarely encountered. The story traces the journey of Aminata Diallo, a young girl sold into slavery, but the tale originates with her family and lifestyle in Africa. As readers begin to understand the world she lost, the dire ramifications of her life as a slave cause us to take her struggles to heart, as if we are grasping the reality of slavery the for the first time.
'The Blue Sweater' by Jacqueline Novogratz
Novogratz challenges us to redefine our approach to the issue of poverty, and her gripping story reads like one of our favorite novels. Her book relates her fascinating path from working in microfinance in Africa to becoming the founder of the Acumen Fund, a non-profit organization that transforms charitable donations into investments in developing countries. It’s a must-read for anyone at all interested in the poverty dilemma or the emerging world of microfinance.
'The Translator' by Leila Aboulela
Aboulela takes us on a riveting voyage into the inner life of Sammar, a Sudanese translator working in Scotland who is forced to confront her past when she falls for a Scottish scholar of Islam who does not share her deeply-held beliefs. Not only do readers gain an intensely personal view into one of the world’s major (and majorly misunderstood) religions, but we also gain insight into what it means to be an outsider living far from home.
'Behind the Beautiful Forevers' by Katherine Boo
We all glimpsed slum existence in Mumbai in Slumdog Millionaire, but Boo takes us deeper, and allows us to live everyday life alongside the residents of the slum. There are a host of questions in this book, but few answers. Instead, Boo teaches us that questioning the status quo is an important stepping stone in our efforts to build equality in our world.
'And the Mountains Echoed' by Khaled Hosseini
Hosseini employs a unique storytelling method to bring us the tragic tale of a brother and his beloved little sister separated at a young age. He shifts effortlessly between different viewpoints and eras to create a multilayered portrait of the complexity of life in Afghanistan. Through his interpretation of the beauty and darkness of the human spirit, he teaches us that every decision, no matter how small, can have enormous consequences.
'In the Time of The Butterflies' by Julia Alvarez
The Mirabal sisters, known by their code name ‘the Butterflies,’ led the fight for liberty in the Dominican Republic under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, showing outstanding bravery and dedication. Their story is incredibly inspiring, even more so because it is based on true events. Although we may not face repressive dictatorships, we all encounter injustice, and the story of the Mirabal sisters will inspire us to speak out for what we believe.