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Books to read in honor of Human Rights Day

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted on December 10th, 1948. To honor Human Rights Day, we've collected a selection of Beacon Press titles that explore the issues of Human Rights from a diverse perspective. Order any of these books at using the code GIFT20 and receive 20% off, free shipping, and Beacon Press will donate 15% of proceeds to help schools affected by Hurricane Sandy. Get the full details here.


1427Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

 Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ("meaning")-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

At the time of Frankl's death in 1997, Man's Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. A 1991 reader survey for the Library of Congress that asked readers to name a "book that made a difference in your life" found Man's Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America. 

"One of the great books of our time." 
—Harold S. Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People

"One of the outstanding contributions to psychological thought in the last fifty years."
—Carl R. Rogers (1959) 


0130The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands by Margaret Regan  

For the last decade, Margaret Regan has reported on the escalating chaos along the Arizona-Mexico border, ground zero for immigration since 2000. Undocumented migrants cross into Arizona in overwhelming numbers, a state whose anti-immigrant laws are the most stringent in the nation. And Arizona has the highest number of migrant deaths. Fourteen-year-old Josseline, a young girl from El Salvador who was left to die alone on the migrant trail, was just one of thousands to perish in its deserts and mountains.

With a sweeping perspective and vivid on-the-ground reportage, Regan tells the stories of the people caught up in this international tragedy. Traveling back and forth across the border, she visits migrants stranded in Mexican shelters and rides shotgun with Border Patrol agents in Arizona, hiking with them for hours in the scorching desert; she camps out in the thorny wilderness with No More Deaths activists and meets with angry ranchers and vigilantes. Using Arizona as a microcosm, Regan explores a host of urgent issues: the border militarization that threatens the rights of U.S. citizens, the environmental damage wrought by the border wall, the desperation that compels migrants to come north, and the human tragedy of the unidentified dead in Arizona's morgues.

View the readers' guide.


5116Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States by Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie and Kay Whitlock 

A groundbreaking work that turns a “queer eye” on the criminal legal system, Queer (In)Justice is a searing examination of queer experiences—as “suspects,” defendants, prisoners, and survivors of crime. The authors unpack queer criminal archetypes—like “gleeful gay killers,” “lethal lesbians,” “disease spreaders,” and “deceptive gender benders”—to illustrate the punishment of queer expression, regardless of whether a crime was ever committed. Tracing stories from the streets to the bench to behind prison bars, they prove that the policing of sex and gender both bolsters and reinforces racial and gender inequalities.

Read chapter 3 from Queer (In)Justice

Queer (In)Justice ought to be force-fed to the staffs and boards of directors of every national and state gay organization in the hope that it might open their eyes to a reality they too often deliberately ignore. . . . It’s that important.”—Doug Ireland, Gay City News

“A vivid account of how the law in the United States has his?torically treated LGBT people as criminals and, startlingly, the degree to which for?mal decriminalization of gay sex has failed to remove the criminal taint from queer sexuality and expression . . . Mandatory reading.”—Lesbian/Gay Law Notes



In Our Own Best Interest: How Defending Human Rights Benefits Us All by William Schulz

Sierra Leone, Kosovo, East Timor, the Bronx. The nightly news brings vivid images into our homes of the mistreatment of people all over the world. In the secure comfort of our living rooms, we may feel sympathetic to the victims of these atrocities but far removed from them. "What does all this have to do with a person in east Tennessee?" is the question, from a radio program host, that prompted William Schulz to write this book.

Schulz provides answers with an insightful work, generously laced with compelling stories of women and men from all continents, which clearly delineates the connection between our prosperity here in the United States and human rights violations throughout the globe. The book reveals the high cost of indifference not only in ethical and moral terms, but in terms of the political, economic, environmental and public health consequences in our own backyards.

Consider, for example, the high cost to U.S. military personnel and their families of radical political instability in the Balkans-costs that might well have been avoided if the United States and the international community had conscientiously defended human rights. Or the devastating economic impact on U.S. businesses of systemic corruption in Asia. Or the serious environmental hazards of nuclear fuel leaks in Russia, the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis, and the expensive dangers of inhumane prison conditions in the United States, to name just a few examples. At the heart of each of these problems lies the abuse of basic human rights.

Through the stories of Natasa Kandic and Alexander Nikitin, of Samia Sarwar and Han Dongfang, of Jaime Garzon and Sister Dianna Ortiz, Schulz introduces us to the front line of the international battle for rights and builds a powerful case for defending our own interests by vigorously defending the human rights of people everywhere.

"If any foreign policy primer could be called a page-turner, it is this one by the executive director of Amnesty International USA. What the human rights community needs to do, argues Schulz in this well-written clarion call, is find 'the compelling reasons why respect for human rights is in the best interests of the United States.' . . . Schulz has written a clear and provocative book that should be read by all concerned with human rights and U.S. foreign policy and will draw new supporters among the general public."
-Publishers Weekly, starred review

0123I Don't Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup by David Chura

David Chura taught high school in a New York county penitentiary for ten years-five days a week, seven hours a day. In these pages, he gives a face to a population regularly demonized and reduced to statistics by the mainstream media. Through language marked by both the grit of the street and the expansiveness of poetry, the stories of these young people break down the divisions we so easily erect between us and them, the keepers and the kept-and call into question the increasing practice of sentencing juveniles as adults.
"Riveting . . . An indictment of the system."-Sam Roberts, New York Times

"As U.S. courts send more than 250,000 minors each year into adult prisons (according to a 2008 Juvenile Justice report), Chura's anguished, incisive depiction of one of those outposts is . . . a compelling call to repair our society's brokenness."-Cathi Dunn MacRae, Youth Today

"In its many twists and turns, the book discovers in the prison labyrinth a metaphor of the confinements and refuges of the human spirit. In the face of every person he so carefully depicts, the author shows us a mirror."-David Kaczynski, Times Union

"[Chura] recalls the raw, gritty emotions of young men with little education and few options. . . . A compelling personal look at the failings of the juvenile justice system."-Booklist


0307Truth, Torture, and the American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture by Jennifer K. Harbury

Jennifer Harbury's investigation into torture began when her husband disappeared in Guatemala in 1992; she told the story of his torture and murder in Searching for Everardo. For over a decade since, Harbury has used her formidable legal, research, and organizing skills to press for the U.S. government's disclosure of America's involvement in harrowing abuses in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. A draft of this book had just been completed when the first photos from Abu Ghraib were published; tragically, many of Harbury's deepest fears about America's own abuses were graphically confirmed by those horrific images.

This urgently needed book offers both well-documented evidence of the CIA's continuous involvement in torture tactics since the 1970s and moving personal testimony from many of the victims. Most important, Harbury provides solid, convincing arguments against the use of torture in any circumstances: not only because it is completely inconsistent with all the basic values Americans hold dear, but also because it has repeatedly proved to be ineffective: Again and again,'information' obtained through these gruesome tactics proves unreliable or false. Worse, the use of torture by U.S. client states, allies, and even by our own operatives, endangers our citizens and especially our troops deployed internationally.

"The word "torture" has always brought to mind the Gestapo, or the gulag. Jennifer Harbury shocks us as she confronts us with our own nation's record of torture and brutality, from Latin America to Vietnam to Iraq. She tells the story of her husband's disappearance, torture, and murder in Guatemala, but also presents the testimonies of other torture victims, with the C.I.A. a shadowy, ominous presence. Their stories make us feel shame at the betrayal of our most cherished values, but Harbury is undaunted, believing we must expose the truth and demand that our government not respond to the terrorism of 9-11 with the terrorism of the secret torture chamber." -- Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States

"A few bad apples? A small group of undisciplined soldiers? Read this harrowing, courageous book and you will discover that the torments of Abu Ghraib are deeply and systematically rooted in a poisonous American past." -- Ariel Dorfman, author of Other Septembers, Many Americas

"Bully for this brave woman who, despite her personal tragedy, takes democracy more seriously than its alleged protectors. She is a patriot to put the pundits to shame." -- Eric Alterman, The Nation


6906Victory For Us Is to See You Suffer: In the West Bank with the Palestinians and the Israelis by Philip C. Winslow

During the second Palestinian intifada, Philip C. Winslow worked in the West Bank with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), driving up to 600 miles a week in the occupied territory. He returned to the region in 2006. In this book, Winslow captures the daily struggles, desperation, and anger of Palestinians; the hostility of settlers; the complex responses of Israeli soldiers, officials, and peace activists; and even the breathtaking beauty of nature in this embattled place.

"[Winslow] writes in a gentle tone about the constant brutalizing and inhumane quality of the Israeli occupation, the administration of checkpoints, and attempts to crush the Palestinian community and economy. He doesn't consider the political positions of either side but blames both for ignoring the repercussions of their actions, on their enemy and on themselves. Winslow's sensitivity and strong writing make this an important volume."
—Library Journal

"Foreign correspondent Winslow depicts the universal cost of Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands in excruciatingly human terms . . . The multilayered narrative demonstrates unusual compassion for the human side of the conflict, sympathizing with both the Palestinian citizens and the Israeli soldiers in the clear understanding that the latter, too, are dehumanized by the violence that surrounds them."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review


4419Executed on a Technicality: Lethal Injustice on America's Death Row by David R. Dow 

When David Dow took his first capital case, he supported the death penalty. He changed his position as the men on death row became real people to him, and as he came to witness the profound injustices they endured: from coerced confessions to disconcertingly incompetent lawyers; from racist juries and backward judges to a highly arbitrary death penalty system.

It is these concrete accounts of the people Dow has known and represented that prove the death penalty is consistently unjust, and it's precisely this fundamental-and lethal-injustice, Dow argues, that should compel us to abandon the system altogether.

Read David R. Dow's posts at Beacon Broadside

"An honorably dispassionate and logical broadside against a shameful practice."
—Kirkus Reviews

"Dow reveals the dirty little secret of American death-penalty litigation: procedure trumps innocence . . . [His book] is insightful and full of the kinds of revelations that may lead readers to reconsider their stand on the death penalty."
—Steve Mills, Chicago Tribune

"Dow's book leaves all else behind. It is powerful, direct, informative, and told in compelling human terms. He makes us see that the issue is not sentiment or retribution or even innocence. It is justice."
—Anthony Lewis, Pulitzer Prize-winning former columnist for the New York Times