In our modern world of consumerist culture, superficial sentimentality and instant gratification, we ask ourselves, how do we eliminate bullying, racism and war? A museum dedicated to Human Rights may help achieve such lofty goals, but in reality we already have such a museum. It is called a library. The price of admission is a free card and it holds every idea in the world. According to the Greater Good, in order to learn empathy, we must practice active listening, look for commonality in others, share in other people’s joy, and above all READ FICTION.
In my dream Library for Human Rights, Canadian women play a prominent role. The foundation of my dream library was laid by Nellie McClung, prolific author, mother of five, and champion of the right to vote for women.
Upon entering the Beatrice Culleton Mosionier Lobby , one would join the circle and watch the Royal Winnipeg Ballet dancing their new ballet Going Home Star, Truth and Reconciliation around the fires that are burning for our missing aboriginal sisters .
Spreading out from the atrium, like the spokes of a wheel from a Red River cart are the Halls of Fiction. To our left is the Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch Wing for Historical Fiction. Marsha’s new book Dance of the Banished is the story of two teen Alevi Kurds during WWI. Zeynep and Ali are young and betrothed yet Ali is sent to Canada by his mother to escape the coming war. Zeynep stays behind, writing to Ali in her journal about the changes happening around her. All too soon she is witnessing the destruction of her village and the genocide of her people. Although Ali is sent to Canada for safety, he is accused of spying and is sent to a work/slave camp in Northern Ontario proving that acts of racism are not uncommon in Canada.
To our right is the Deborah Ellis Wing for Middle Eastern Fiction. Acclaimed for her Breadwinner series, Deborah Ellis’ latest novel describes the realities of lesbian teens in Iran. Based on real events, Moon at Nine is the story of Farrin, who hides her parents’ political leanings from the authorities since the truth will send the entire family to jail. As Farrin slowly realizes she is in love with her female classmate Sadira, she begins to hide that secret from her teachers as well. Innocent, same-sex love such as theirs is strictly forbidden and punishable by death. When Farrin’s family realizes the true nature of their love, they turn their backs and leave her to her fate, reminding us the power of the many easily and routinely crushes the freedom of a few.
Straight ahead is the Susin Nielsen Wing for Realistic Fiction. The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen was inspired by the events of the Columbine High School massacre. Henry is a typical geek – red hair, smart, and slightly overweight. When he finds himself in a new school, he cannot bring himself to make friends. Henry doesn’t want to talk about IT and his therapist insists that Henry write in his journal. Reluctantly, he does, and we discover that Henry’s older brother was a victim of bullying and has taken action against his aggressor. As the truth about IT is revealed, we are reminded that bystanders are victims too.
By experiencing the effects of human suffering through reading fiction, meaningful change is possible for anyone. My library for Human Rights is a place where everyone has the Freedom to Read , to discuss, to debate, and to reflect. It is a place where we find our similarities instead of pointing out our differences. In times of darkness, we search for the light of truth. Find it in the pages of the next novel you read.