Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Watching the State of the Union

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and InheritanceYour Reader Leader could not agree more with this Junot Diaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) post on the Storyteller in Chief
All year I’ve been waiting for Obama to flex his narrative muscles, to tell the story of his presidency, of his Administration, to tell the story of where our country is going and why we should help deliver it there. A coherent, accessible, compelling story—one that is narrow enough to be held in our minds and hearts and that nevertheless is roomy enough for us, the audience, to weave our own predilections, dreams, fears, experiences into its fabric. It should necessarily be a story eight years in duration, a story that no matter what our personal politics are will excite us enough to go out and reëlect the teller just so we can be there for the story’s end.

Read more the whole column.  Stories have kept us engaged, enthusiastic and driven to do more for human rights for the past ten years. I read Dreams from My Father.  I know he can do it.  Tell us a story!

More from our authors on Haiti

Now that our Haitian expert authors have had some time to breathe, they're collecting their thoughts and sharing:

Edwidge Danticat lost her cousin Maxo, son of her uncle Joseph, in the earthquake. Joseph was the central character in her memoir, Brother, I'm Dying, and Maxo accompanied his father on that fateful trip to the US. Danticat shares her memories of Maxo in the New Yorker.

Paul Farmer and colleagues have penned an op-ed for the Miami Herald and Farmer is interviewed on WNYC,

Amy Wilentz takes on the pundits (The Haiti Haters) in The Nation and is also now in Port-au-Prince filing dispatches for TIME,
There are so many dead — and yet, so many living. And the living, too afraid — rightly — to go back inside, are all staying out on the street. As a friend of mine wrote recently on Twitter, "The street has become the living room of the people." But I'm not just talking about the new tent cities, interior refugee camps that have sprung up in so many of the capital's available empty lots and public spaces. I'm also talking about plain old life on the streets. The cards players, the clothes washers, the charcoal sellers, the water men, and the thousands of quotidian passersby. With so many dead, Port-au-Prince seems, if anything, more crowded than ever.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Guantanamo Follow-up

Following up on our very recent discussion of Mahvish Khan's My Guantanamo Diary, we have a new look at the The Guantánamo “Suicides” from Scott Horton of Harper's. Reaction from Glenn Greenwald (Salon) and Dahlia Lithwick (Slate),

The fact that three Guantanamo prisoners—none of whom had any links to terrorism and two of whom had already been cleared for release—may have been killed there and the deaths covered up, should be front-page news. That brand-new evidence of this possible atrocity from military guards was given only the most cursory investigation by the Obama administration should warrant some kind of blowback. But changing what we allow ourselves to believe about torture would change the way we have reconciled ourselves to torture. Nobody in this country is prepared to do that. So we have opted to ignore it.
Don't to forget to check out fresh action opportunities on Guantanamo closure from the ACLU Amnesty!

Update:  Via Human Rights Now,  here's how Amnesty is responding,
Yesterday, Amnesty International wrote formally to US Attorney General Eric Holder urging him to:
1) Release unredacted copies of the NCIS and SOUTHCOM investigations into the incident;
2) Publish the Department of Justice’s investigation of Sgt. Hickman’s allegations;
3) Reveal the purpose of the facility Hickman labeled ‘Camp No’; and
4) Publish any materials relating to the abuse of a fourth detainee, Shaker Aamer, reported to have taken place in Camp Echo on the same day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

For May: Fifty Miles from Tomorrow by Willam L. Iggiagruk Hensley

For May we have selected Fifty Miles from Tomorrow: A Memoir of Alaska and the Real People by Willam L. Iggiagruk Hensley:

Born twenty-nine miles north of the arctic circle, William L. Iggiagruk Hensley was raised to live the seminomadic life that his Iñupiaq ancestors had lived for thousands of years. In this stirring memoir, he offers us a rare firsthand account of growing up Native Alaskan, and later, in the lower forty-eight, as a fearless advocate for Native land rights. In 1971, after years of tirelessly lobbying the United States government, he played a key role in a landmark victory that enabled the Inupiaq to take charge of their economic and political destiny.

Monday, January 18, 2010

For April: Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

For April we have selected Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay:

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

Paris, May 2002: On Vel’ d’Hiv’s 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rights Readers Authors on Haiti

As is often the case, Rights Readers authors have special insights into events that concern us most and the Haitian earthquake is no exception. (Amnesty International's concerns for Haiti going forward are outlined here.)

Tracy Kidder comes forward in the New York Times (Country Without a Net) with an analysis of Haiti's development problems and a plug for the subject of his book Mountains Beyond Mountains,
But there are effective aid organizations working in Haiti. At least one has not been crippled by the earthquake. Partners in Health, or in Haitian Creole Zanmi Lasante, has been the largest health care provider in rural Haiti. (I serve on this organization’s development committee.) It operates, in partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Health, some 10 hospitals and clinics, all far from the capital and all still intact. As a result of this calamity, Partners in Health probably just became the largest health care provider still standing in all Haiti.
Certainly, Partners in Health would be a very worthy place for your charity dollar.

Stand With Haiti

Amy Wilentz (The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier) is a local favorite with appearances on an informative KCRW program, and in op-eds for HuffPo, and the LATimes, where she tries to stay optimistic about Haitian resilience,
The tragedy is tremendous and the threats to life ongoing in a situation in which the ground is still trembling and disease likely. But the capacity of this people for survival and, indeed, for greatness in the worst of conditions has been demonstrated for more than two centuries. These are the descendants of people who overthrew an indecent, inhuman, overpowering slave system. Many of those still alive grew up under a vicious dynasty and rose up to oust it.
And finally, of course, Edwidge Danticat (Brother, I'm Dying) has been sharing her concerns for family and the country of her birth at Democracy Now, NPR, CNN and no doubt other outlets. More moving though, may be this video recitation (starting at about the 11 minute mark), made after a different disaster, of the high points of the intertwined history of Haiti and the United States. May we draw on and strengthen those bonds now.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Our January Author: Mahvish Khan

Mahvish Khan, author of this month's selection, My Guantanamo Diary: The Detainees and the Stories They Told Me, has her own website: Mahvish. You'll find pictures from Guantanamo, Afghanistan and the detainees and their families there. Guantanamo is a popular place for photo essayists. See also these provocative photo collections from TIME, Edmund Clark at lens culture and more from the Boston Globe.

Video of talks given by Khan are available from Authors@Google and ForaTV.

To follow up on the status of prisoners mentioned in the book or others you may have read about or written an Amnesty action on behalf of, you can consult the NYT's Guantánamo Docket. The Washington Post has a Guantanamo Bay Timeline that could be useful as well. Two of the NGO's featured prominently in the book are the Center for Constitutional Rights and Reprieve. CCR runs down all the Supreme Court cases concerning Guantanamo inmates and Reprieve does a good job of featuring the stories of their various detainee clients. Reprieve's director, Clive Stafford Smith wrote in the LATimes in 2007,
In more than 20 years trying death-penalty cases, I have visited all the worst prisons in the Deep South, yet none compares to Camp Six here. To the military, this tribute to Halliburton's profiteering is state-of-the-art; to the human being, it is simply inhumane.
The ACLU is always a worth a look too: Close Gitmo & End Military Commissions. And of course, you should check out Amnesty International USA's Counter Terror with Justice page, especially the current actions on behalf of detainees.

NPR reports on Guantanamo poetry and Harper's adds a poem from Jumah al-Dossary, who also penned this account of his imprisonment for the Washington Post, I'm Home, but Still Haunted by Guantanamo, leaving us with a little hope,
In Guantanamo, I was very angry with the people who had decided to hold me thousands of miles from home without charging or trying me. I was very angry with the people who kept me in isolation even when I was at my most desperate. I was very angry about having no rights at all. I was not angry with Americans in general and I even drew comfort from some, such as my lawyers and the kind soldier. But I could scarcely comprehend how U.S. policy had allowed me to be treated as I had been.
On the plane ride home, though, I decided that I would have to forgive to go on with my life. I also know that Sept. 11 was a great tragedy that caused some people to do dark things that they would not otherwise do. This knowledge helped me forget my miserable existence in Guantanamo and open my heart to life again...
Would that we could leave this behind us too, but the matter of what happens after Guantanamo still confronts us. I leave you with this post, Obama & the Guantanamo Mess: A Way Out? by David Cole from the New York Review blog as a signpost for discussion.
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