Book review: Here I stand by Amnesty International UK

5/5 stars.

This is a powerful anthology of short stories and poems on topics of human rights and freedoms, and the importance of speaking out against injustice. It covers a broad variety of topics such as gay rights, racism, human trafficking, religious fanaticism, bullying and environmental devastation resulting from an oil spill. I almost feel as if all important topics in modern society are covered within the pages of this book.

The writers expertly craft their stories into riveting, gut-wrenching narratives that make you confront your own prejudices and remind you of the continued importance of using the freedoms you have to speak out for those who cannot. “That’s just the way it is” is never an acceptable argument. If the way it is is not good enough, we can change it.

I had to give up reading this book on my commute because it kept making me cry and feel physically unwell. It’s a very hard book to read. Very confronting. But also it’s almost impossible to put down. And it’s very important. I think many of us could use a reminder about the things worth fighting for.

It’s rare to find an anthology with so many different contributors on such a variety of topics with so consistent quality. Normally when I read a short story collection (whether its written by one or multiple writers) there’s a couple of stories that I love, some that I enjoy and maybe a good 30% or so that I don’t really care for. It almost seems to be an unwritten law of short story collections. In this case there was really only one story that didn’t capture me – I’m not sure if it was the subject or the writing style or a combination.

And, not unimportantly for something that is ultimately a work of fiction, it works as literature. It’s not just a means to an end, it’s good storytelling. Even though we only visit in each writer’s universe for a short time, they draw me in and make me feel and experience their story and characters, which is one of the reasons this work becomes so powerful. We know that they are writing about things that really happen, yet we can empathise and immerse ourselves in a way we wouldn’t do if we were reading an article or essay on the subject. Any additional information or background the writers want to give is added as a sort of footnote at the end of their story. I also really enjoyed reading these.

This is not light reading, but it should be required reading.

As for me, it inspired me to take stock of my own commitment to fighting injustice and forced me to face the fact that I’ve become all too proficient in tolerating the in justice that doesn’t directly affect me – which I write more about here.



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