Fictional Literature
Literature for Teaching Human Rights
An Annotated Bibliography

Nancy Flowers, Curriculum Coordinator
Amnesty International USA 1989
Updated and edited by Lory Schwedes (1999), Mollie Smith (2002), and Alexis Howe (2005)

Reproduced with permission

Achebe, Chinua (Nigeria).Things Fall Apart.Portsmouth, NH:Heinemann Educational, 1996.

Things Fall Apart depicts the life of a Nigerian man, Okonkwo, before and after Nigeria is colonized by Great Britain.Through Okonkwo, Achebe shows the violence, tradition, and community of Nigerians prior to the arrival of British missionaries who want the tribes to renounce their tribal religion and adopt Christianity.Okonkwoís eventual downfall parallels the destruction of the pre-colonial Nigerian society by colonization.

Adnan, Etel (Lebanon).  Sitt Marie Rose: A Novel. 5th ed.  Translated from the French by Georgina Kleege.  Sausalito: Post-Apollo Press, 1998.

Sitt Marie Rose is a fictionalized account of the real life abduction of the head mistress of a school for the deaf in Beirut.  Marie Rose, a well-known champion of causes, dared to cross lines that separated Christians from Palestinians and other Muslims.

Agosin, Marjorie, ed.A Map of Hope:Womenís Writings on Human Rights Ė An International Literary Anthology.New Brunswick, NJ:Rutgers University Press, 1999.

A Map of Hope is a collection of prose and poetry by women writers from around the world that focuses on human rights issues, such as war, domestic and political violence, imprisonment and childhood.Many of the authors are unknown and are seeking to raise the worldís awareness of these problems by putting their own experiences into writing.[1]

Alegría, Fernando ( Chile). Allende: A Novel. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993.

This novel recounts the life of Salvador Allende, the author begins the narration with the childhood of the future Chilean president (a socialist, Allende was elected in 1970), closing with a description of the 1973 coup d’état that ended in the president’s death.

Alegría, Fernando ( Chile). The Chilean Spring. Pittsburgh: Latin American Literary Review Press, 1980.

This novel is a fictional re-creation of the asasination of photographer, Cristián Montealegre in 1973. Through his fictional work, Alegría comments on the political violence that plagued Chile during the 1970’s.

Alegría, Fernando ( Chile). Chilean Writers in Exile: Eight Short Novels. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1982.

This collection of fiction includes works by authors exiled by the coup d’état in 1973: T he first days (Alfonso González Dagnino); Of flight and abidings (Juan Armando Epple); Barbed wire fence (Aníbal Quijada); War chorale ( Fernando Alegría); Like the hyena (Poli Délano); St. Elizabeth (Claudio Giacomi); My beautiful Buenos Aires (Leandro Urbina); Putamadre (Ariel Dorfman).

Allende, Isabella (Chile).  The House of the Spirits.  New York: Knopf, 1985.

In The House of the Spirits, three generations of mothers, daughters, and sisters are depicted in a style that incorporates "magic-realism," humor, and political violence.

Allende, Isabel ( Chile). Of Love and Shadows. New York: Knopf, 1987.

This novel insists on the existence of love amidst the chaos of a country devastated by dictatorship. A young couple searches for truth and justice, putting their own lives at risk to uncover the secrets behind the disappearance of a young girl.

Álvarez, Julia (USA / Dominican Republic). In the Time of the Butterflies. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1994.

The author bases her novel on the true story of the Mirabal sisters who resisted the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic during the 1960s and who were also killed by this same regime.

Alves, Miriam (Brazil). Enfim--nós: escritoras negras brasileiras contemporâneas = Finally--us: contemporary Black Brazilian women writers. Colorado Springs, Three Continents Press, 1995.

In her poetry, Alves writes from her perspective as a black Brazilian woman.

Also: "Momentos de busca" (1932); "Estrelas no dedo" (1985)

Anand, Mulk Raj (India).  Untouchable.  London: Penguin, 1990.

This novel traces the ordinary events of a single day in the life of a family of Indiaís lowest caste; considered to pollute everything they touch, these "sweepers" had little hope in traditional India where their plight was considered the result of their bad karma.

Appelfeld, Aharon (Israel).  To the Land of the Cattails.  New York: Harper & Row, 1986.

A young man and his mother arrive in his motherís home village just as the Jews are shipped off on a mysterious train to an unspecified destination.

Also: The Healer (1990)
Also: The Iron Tracks (1998)

Arenas, Reinaldo ( Cuba). The Assault. New York: Viking, 1994.

This novel introduces the reader to a world of dehumanized people living under the regime of the “represident”, where one would be “totally annihilated” for speaking of a time when man once walked on the moon, for saying “I’m cold”, for resting one’s gaze at the waist area, or for being a “whisperer”.

Arguedas, José María ( Peru). The fox from up above and the fox from down below. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000.

This novel, both in content and form, represents the ethnic mixture of Peruvian culture. It blends a European writing style, the novel, with the indigenous myth. Set in the city of Chimbote, a Peruvian port city, this novel shows the influx of migrants coming from the Andes to find work. Once in the city, the indigenous migrants experience discrimination and alienation from the mestizo and white populations.

Argueta, Manlio (El Salvador).  One Day of Life.  New York: Vintage Books, 1983.

One Day of Life recalls the civil war in El Salvador as seen through the eyes of Lupe, the matriarch of a peasant family.  Through a series of flashbacks, the devastation and brutality of the war and the strength and resilience of the poor farmers is graphically presented.

Asturias, Miguel Ángel ( Guatemala). The President. Harmondsworth, Eng: Penguin Books, 1972.

In this novel Asturias creates a machine-like State that has complete control over its inhabitants; the plot follows Angel Face, the hero who rebels against the all-powerful State. Many critics consider this work to be the novel of the Estrada Cabrera dictatorship – Manuel Estrada Cabrera had installed himself as dictator in Guatemala from 1898–1920, a time that greatly affected the author who was born in 1899 and whose youth was defined by Estrada politics (Astrurias’ parents fled the capital city in fear of political persecution).

Also: Week-end en Guatemala (1956)

Atwood, Margaret (Canada).  The Handmaidís Tale.  Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1985.

In a post-atomic world controlled by radical Christians, the few women who remain fertile become "handmaids," forced to bear children for the leadership.

Azuela, Mariano. The underdogs, a novel of the Mexican Revolution. New York: New American Library, 1963.

In this novel, Azuela fictionalizes the Mexican Revolution, including many references to historical figures, such as Porfirio Diaz, Francisco Madero and Pancho Villa, in his fictional characters.

Babel, Issak (Poland).  The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel.  Edited and translated by Walter Morison.  New York: Criterion Books, 1955.

The stories concerned with Czarist era pogroms, particularly "The Story of My Dovecot," are precise portrayals of race hatred.  The later stories of the Polish revolution of the early 1920ís show the inevitable course of conviction and ardor welded to violence.

Baccino Ponce de Leon, Napoleon ( Uruguay). Five Black Ships: A Novel of the Discoverers. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1994.

In this novel, the author recreates the epic story of the travels of Magellan, who navigated the seas in a voyage around the world in 1519. This novel revisits the Spanish Conquest of the Americas, telling the story through an alternative voice, that of Juanillo, a Jewish convert to Christianity.

Bache, Ellyn (USA). The Activistís Daughter.Duluth, MN:Spinsters Ink, 1999.

The Activistís Daughter is set in 1963 and tells the story of a young Jewish woman, Beryl Rosinsky, who is searching for an identity very different from that of her parents.Berylís mother is a civil rights activist and Beryl wants nothing to do with her motherís activism.Against her motherís wishes, Beryl enrolls in college at the University of North Carolina and the story focuses on Berylís experiences at school and the influence of her parents upon her emerging identity.[2]

Barowski, Tadeusz (Czechoslobakia). This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman.  Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1980.

Based on the authorís experiences in Auschwitz and Dachau, these stories reveal the minds of both victims and perpetrators.

Bassani, Giorgio (Italy).The Garden of the Finzi-Continis.New York:Harcourt Brace & Co., 1977.

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis is the captivating and haunting tale of the Finzi-Continis, a Jewish family that attempts to insulate themselves against the anti-Semitism infiltrating their hometown of Ferrara, Italy during the years immediately preceding World War II.The story is narrated by a young Jewish man who is invited into the world of the Finzi-Continis and focuses on the narratorís interactions with the family, particularly the two children, Alberto and MicÚl.

Begley, Louis (Poland/USA).  Wartime Lies.  New York: Knopf, 1991.

A boy and his aunt survive the holocaust by a pattern of denial and compromise that leaves its own scars.

Behn, Aphra (West Indies).Oroonoko.New York:Penguin Books, 1992.

Oroonoko tells the tragic tale of black prince who is captured and made a slave in the West Indies.Although Oroonoko is reunited with his true love (both are slaves on the same island) he feels he must kill her and himself so that she is not ravaged by those around them that lust after her beauty.The work is available online at:

Bradbury, Ray (USA).  Fahrenheit 451.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 1971

In a totalitarian state, reading becomes a crime and readers the underground heroes.  The title is the temperature at which paper burns.

Burgess, Anthony (UK).  A Clockwork Orange.  1st rev. ed.  New York: Ballantine Books, 1988.

In this dark vision of the near future, semi-literate gangs of violent youth threaten the establishment.  Burgess explores the use of behaviorism in controlling morality: can a delinquent be reformed through brainwashing?

Carpintier, Alejo ( Cuba). Reasons of State. New York: Knopf, 1976.

In this novel the author makes various historical references, demonstrating the cycle of violence and repressive dictatorships that have continued to plague Latin American politics for generations.

Coetzee, J.M. (South Africa).  Life and Times of Michael K.  New York: Viking, 1984.

This work is a vision of life in South Africa after a successful Black revolution.  It is an interesting comparison with Gordimerís Julyís People, which takes a womanís view of similar circumstances.

Also: Waiting for the Barbarians.

Conrad, Joseph (UK).  Nostromo: a Tale of the Seaboard.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.

Nostromo is an exploration of colonialism, exploitation, and oppression, including portraits of the effects of torture on sensitive men.

Danticat, Edwidge ( Haiti). The farming of bones. New York: Soho Press, 1998.

The historical backdrop of this novel is the Haiti – Dominican Republic conflict, specifically the order of General Trujillo that all Haitians living on Dominican soil be killed (1937). The storyline follows Amabelle, a Haitian servant living in the Dominican Republic at the time of the massacre and her journey back to Haiti.

Dee, Jonathan (USA/Brazil).The Liberty Campaign.New York:Doubleday, 1993.

The Liberty Campaign tells the story of Gene Trowbridge, a man who befriends his next door neighbor and then discovers that the man was a Brazilian Army captain that directed the torture of Brazilian civilians in the 1960ís.When police and human rights activists discover the neighborís secret, the former Army captain turns to Gene for help.[3]

Demetz, Hana (Czechoslovakia).  The House on Prague Street.  New York: St. Martin's Press, 1980.

Born in Czechoslovakia to a German father and a Jewish mother, Helene Richter recalls her serene childhood and tragic adolescence, when she loses family to the holocaust and her friends and first love to the devastation of war.

Doane, Michael (Africa).City of Light:A Novel.New York:Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

In City of Light, Thomas Zane, a man working for an organization that monitors international human rights violations, investigates the mysterious death of his best friend and is thrust into ďa nightmarish labyrinth of African politics, betrayal, torture, and death.Ē[4]

Donoso, José ( Chile). Curfew. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988.

The author examines the experience of return after exile; of course coming into play in his treatment of this theme would be the author’s own thoughts and anxieties on return to Chile after a long period of exile.

Donoso, José ( Chile). The garden next door. New York: Grove Press, 1992.

In this novel the author deals with the experience of exile, a theme of personal interest to him, as he was a political exile from Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship.

Donoso, José ( Chile). A house in the country. London: A. Lane, 1983.

This novel deals with the rise and fall of the Chilean President Salvador Allende, who won the elections in 1970 only to be overthrown by the coup three years later in 1973.

Dorfman, Ariel ( Chile). Death and the Maiden. New York: Penguin Books, 1994.

This play explores the complex relationship between three people – a torturer, a torture victim, and a bystander (spouse to the torture victim and friend to the torturer). Dorfman explores the many questions of how Chileans will be able to live together in the aftermath of the dictatorship; since Pinochet assured that perpetrators be free from prosecution after the fall of the dictatorship, this situation of victims living alongside their aggressors was a reality for Chileans.

Dorfman, Ariel ( Chile). The Last Song of Manuel Sendero.

This novel portrays a generation of babies who refuse to be born due to the state of political repression that they will face once outside of the womb.

Dorfman, Ariel.  Last Waltz in Santiago and Other Poems of Exile and Disappearance.  Viking, 1988.

Ariel Dorfman’s book of poetry details accounts of government abuse and terror campaigns in Chile.

Dorfman, Ariel (Chile).  My House is on Fire.  New York: Viking Press, 1991.

Eleven tales of lyrical and often brutal beauty set in Pinochetís Chile which brilliantly portray the struggle for love and faith in families living under political oppression.

Also: Last Waltz in Santiago (1988)
Also: Death and the Maiden (1991)
Also: Konfidenz (1995)

Dorfman, Ariel ( Chile). Manifesto for Another World: Voices from Beyond the Dark. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2004.

The characters in this play are all historical persons who have experienced political repression and violence committed by their State. This work permits these individuals to speak of their experiences (as many were denied a voice under repression) and enables their voices to reach readers in all parts of the globe.

Dorfman, Ariel ( Chile). The Resistance Trilogy: Widows; Death and the Maiden; Reader. London: Nick Hern Books, 1998.

This collection of three plays expresses resistance to the extreme repression and violence of the Pinochet regime. Dorfman creates female heroines in the first two dramas, insisting on the strength of the woman who suffers not only political repression, but that based on gender as well.

Durrenmatt, Friedrich (Switzerland). The Quarry.  Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1968.

The Quarry is a short story about a Nazi concentration camp doctor.

Also: The Physicists (1965)

Ellison, Ralph (USA).  Invisible Man.  New York: Modern Library, 1952.

Invisible Man is an American classic about one manís struggle to find social justice.  The various stages of the unnamed protagonistís life roughly mirror the position of African-Americans in American history.  The narrator is at first naÔve of his own oppression, but slowly begins to work to obtain knowledge.  Then he is betrayed and becomes a militant leader in the black community.  After upheaval and tragedy, he comes to the realization that he must seek peaceful ways to eradicate racism and discrimination and to reconcile American race relations and create a lasting civil society.

El Saadawi, Nawal (Egypt).  God Dies by the Nile.  London: Zed Press, 1985

In this book, an illiterate peasant woman and her family are systematically exploited by the mayor, the religious representative in the village, as well as other local authorities.

Also: Women at Point Zero: Memoirs from the Womenís Prison (1994)

Eltit, Diamela ( Chile). Sacred Cow. New York: Serpent’s Tale, 1995.

This novel is set against the backdrop of political violence and repression in Chile, the author delves into themes of domination, both political and sexual, focusing on the subject of the woman.

Also: E. Luminata. Santa Fe, NM: Lumen, 1997.

Emecheta, Buchi (Nigeria).  The Bride Price: A Novel.  New York: G. Braziller, 1976.

Against the wishes of her family and the customs of her village, young Aku-nna elopes with the son of well-to-do former slaves.  Her life embodies the changing values and role of women in twentieth century Africa.

Also:  Double Yoke.  Braziller, 1983
Two university students, Ete Kamba and Nko, are caught in conflicting attitudes toward the "modern educated woman."  The "double yoke" is the burden of both modernity and tradition that these women must bear.
Also:  Second-Class Citizen (1975)
Also: The Joys of Motherhood (1979)
Also: The Rape of Shayi (1985)
Also: The Family (1990)

Erdrich, Louise (USA).  Tracks: A Novel.  Henry Holt, 1988.

Tracks is a story of early nineteenth-century Native American life and legends.

Farah, Nuruddin (Somalia).  From a Crooked Rib.  London: Heinemann, 1970.

Ebla, a nomadic herds woman, runs off to town to escape an arranged marriage to an elderly man.  She soon discovers, however, that limitations imposed on town women, while more subtle, are as harsh as those she herself had experienced.

Galeano, Eduardo (Uruguay). Days and Nights of Love and War. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983.

Presented as a mixture of genres, including journals, interviews and folklore, Galeano makes a critique on political power and the ways in which fear is used to silence entire populations.

Galeano, Eduardo (Uruguay).  Memory of Fire.  New York, Pantheon: 1985-88.

Vol. 1, Genesis  (1986); Vol. 2, Faces and Masks (1987); Vol. 3, Century of the Wind (1988).

The trilogy is the history of South America written in an extraordinary pastiche of history and fiction, excerpts from chronicles, mythology, and newspapers blended with inspired imaginings of what people humble and exalted said aloud or thought in their hearts.

Gangopadhyay, Sunil (India). Arjun.  Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987.

Arjun is a novel of oppression and revenge set in Calcuttaís refugee community.

García Márquez, Gabriel ( Colombia). Autumn of the Patriarch. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

In this novel García Márquez presents an anonymous Latin American community that is freed after the death of its dictator. The author himself has admitted that in the central character of the dictator his intention was to create a synthesis of Latin American dictators – in this way García Márquez preserves the archetypal tyrant that has arisen time and time again in Latin American politics.

García Márquez, Gabriel ( Colombia). One Hundred Years of Solitude. New York: Harper and Row, 1970.

In this novel, considered to be the example par exelence of magical realism, the renowned Colombian author introduces the reader to the citizens of the magical village of Macondo and recounts the history of Latin America, accounting for a long cycle of violence and repression but also the strength of the people as well as the magical elements of Latin American reality.

Gordimer, Nadine (South Africa).  Julyís People.  Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982.

When racial civil war breaks out, a middle class white family takes refuge in the village of their house-boy, July.  Sharing the primitive life of rural black South Africans and dependent on their former servant for survival, they find that their old assumptions about power, relationships, and values are being challenged.

Also: Burgerís Daughter (1980)
Also: A Sport of Nature (1987)
Also: My Sonís Story (1990)
Also: Selected Stories (1983)
Thirty-one stories selected by the author, many of which deal with injustice and discrimination.
Also: Six Feet of the Country (1983)
Seven stories selected from No Place Like and A Soldierís Embrace.
Also: Something Out There.  (1983)
This collection illustrates black-white tensions, in particular the dilemmas of liberal whites.

Hansberry, Lorraine (USA).A Raisin in the Sun.New York:Vintage Books, 1994.

This drama, originally produced in 1959, tells the story of an African American family struggling to survive in the ghettos of Chicago.The story deals with many issues, including black identity, feminism, segregation, and violence against African American families trying to move into white neighborhoods.A Raisin in the Sun was revolutionary for its time because of its focus on black culture and because it was written by an African American woman.

Hagedorn, Jessica (Phillipines). Dogeaters.  New York: Penguin, 1996.

Rio, a Filipino girl who immigrated to America, looks back on her difficult childhood in Manila in the days of the reign of Marcos.[5]

Hautzig, Esther (Poland).  The Endless Steppe.  New York: Crowell, 1968.

The Endless Steppe is the story of the Rudomin family as seen through the eyes of teenager Esther.  The family members are Polish Jews deported to Russia with only their unfailing courage to carry them through five years of exile, hunger, and privation, providing an insight into the agonies known to all refugees.

Head, Bessie (South Africa).  When Rain Clouds Gather.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 1968.

Like the author, the protagonist, Golema Mmidi, has fled the racism of South Africa only to find prejudice against him as a refugee and different kinds of oppression in his newly independent country run by blacks.

Also: Maru (1971)
Also: A Question of Power (1973)
Also: Tales of Tenderness and Power (1990)

Heller, Joseph (USA).Catch-22.Scribner Paperback Fiction:1996.

Hellerís novel captures the absurdities and contradictions of war through the story of Yossarian, a World War II bombardier hero who is worried more about staying alive than about winning the war.To Yossarian, the ultimate outcome of the war means nothing to those who are dead and, therefore, he constantly seeks an escape.The epitome of warís absurdity is evident in Yossarianís contemplations on obtaining a discharge from the army on the grounds of insanity.[6]

Huxley, Aldous (USA).  Brave New World.  Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969.

In a world of rigid state control where citizens are cloned and programmed for their assigned roles, the appearance of the "savage," a man born outside this social engineering, challenges the base of society and the meaning of human dignity.

Inés de la Cruz, Sor Juana (Mexico). The Answer: Including a Selection of Poems. New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1994.

This work is a collection of genres, such as poetry and the letter, in which Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a Mexican nun (1651-1695), defends her right to study and write. As a child Juana was a prodigy, she spent time during her adolescence as a lady in waiting to the wife of the Mexican viceroy and later entered a convent, where she filled her room with books and scientific instruments. She was later attacked publicly by a supposed friend for her interest in secular studies, which led to increased criticism and repression ultimately leading to Juana’s permanent forfeit of her studies.

Kafka, Franz (Czechoslovakia).  The Trial.  New York: Schocken Books, 1998.

The Trial is a surreal parable of the individual in the grip of a senseless system.  The protagonist is arrested by government officials and put on trial without being told why.

Also: The Penal Colony: Stories and Short Pieces (1976).

Keneally, Thomas (USA).  Schindlerís List.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982.

The story of Oskar Schindler, who saved over one thousand of his Jewish workers during World War Two, was later made into a Steven Spielberg movie.

Kherdian, David (USA).  The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl.  New York: Beech Tree Books, 1996.

Only Vernon survives when her family is deported from Turkey and forced to live in the deserts of Syria; after escaping the massacre of Armenians and Greeks in Smyrna, she is sent to America as a "mail-order" bride.

Koestler, Arthur (Hungary).  Darkness at Noon.  New York: Bantam, 1970.

Through one party loyalistís confused and agonized imprisonment, Koestler epitomizes the Stalinist terror of the 1930ís.

Kogawa, Joy (Canada).  Obasan.  New York: Anchor Books, 1981.

This novel documents the persecutions of Japanese Canadians after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.  Naomi, the narrator, tries as an adult to unravel and understand her sufferings, confusions, and the silences of her childhood.

Kosinski, Jerzy (Poland).  The Painted Bird.  London: Black Swan, 1996.

The Painted Bird is an autobiographical novel that chronicles the horrors experienced by a small boy wandering through Europe during the Holocaust.

Lustig, Arnost (Czechoslovakia).  Darkness Casts No Shadows.  Translated from the Czech by Jeanne Nemcova.  London: Quartet, 1989.

A collection of several titles previously published separately, Children of the Holocaust portrays the unexpected moral strength and resolve that children often possess in the face of evil.

Malamud, Bernard (USA).  The Fixer.  Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1979.

A young Jew escapes from the Shetl but not from discrimination in Czarist Russia.

Markandaya, Kamala (India).  Nectar in a Sieve.  Bombay: Jaico Publishing, 1980.

Nectar in a Sieve reflects Western and eastern culture in conflict as seen through the eyes of an Indian village woman.

Maron, Monika (UK).  Flight of Ashes.  Great Britain: Reader's International, 1986.

Flight of Ashes is the story of an investigative journalist who travels to the industrial town of B in East Germany and who writes about the censorship and repression there.

Matas, Carol (USA).  Sworn Enemies.  Bantam Books, 1993.

In this work, a sixteen year-old Jewish boy, Aaron, is forced into military service in nineteenth-century Russia.

Mochizuki, Ken (USA).  Baseball Saved Us.  Lee & Low, 1993.

A young boy in a Japanese-American Internment camp learns to play baseball, which helps him overcome prejudice later in life.[7]

Mohanty, Gopinath (India).  Paraja.  London: Faber and Faber, 1987.

Paraja shows the impact of development on poor women in India.

Moravia, Alberto (Italy).  Two Women.  Translated from the Italian by Angus Davidson.  London: Panther, 1984.

Moravia drew upon his own wartime experiences to relate a story of two Italian refugees.

Morrison, Toni (USA).  Beloved.  New York: Knopf, 1987.

Set in the mid-19th century, this story tells of a slave woman who has fled across the Ohio River to freedom but must learn to live with the ghosts of the past, both the terrible acts of others and her own.

Mukerjee, Bharati (India).  Jasmine.  New York: Fawcett Crest, 1989.

Jasmineís story, from traditional India and through the dark migratory world of refugees and illegal aliens, to life as an Iowa farmerís wife in a household that also includes a Vietnamese refugee, is a paradigm for the "new Americans" of the great immigration wave of the late 20th century.

Nabokov, Vladimir (Russia).  Bend Sinister.  New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973.

Bend Sinister is a satiric fantasy about the plight of a philosopher in a grotesque police state.

Neruda, Pablo ( Chile). Canto general. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990.

Originally published in 1950, this work is a collection of approximately 340 poems written during the author’s exile from his native Chile. In this collection, Neruda examines the history of Latin America – the central theme of many of the poems included is the struggle for human dignity and social justice.

Ondaatje, Michael (Sri Lanka).Anilís Ghost.New York:Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Anilís Ghost is the story of a Sri Lankan woman, Anil Tissera, who left Sri Lanka at eighteen, became a forensic anthropologist, and then returns to her homeland as part of an international human rights fact-finding mission that is recovering the bodies of victims killed during years of internal strife.Anil enters a world of ďpolitics, paranoia, and tragedyĒ when she investigates the death of one particular victim.[8]

Orwell, George (UK).  Animal Farm.  New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1973.

In this classic satire of communist revolution, the animals overthrow the brutal farmer and take over the farm, only to discover that some animals are "more equal than others."

Also: 1984.  San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1977.

Under the all-seeing eyes of the state, symbolized by Big Brother, only a brave few risk individuality.  Winston Smith, a worker in the Ministry of Truth, whose task is constantly to rewrite history into Newspeak, becomes a martyr to his own meaning of truth.

Ozick, Cynthia (USA).  The Shawl.  New York: Knopf, 1989.

Two separate stories of a mother who witnesses her babyís death at the hands of concentration camp guards and her life years later still haunted by that event.

Paredes, Americo (Mexico/USA).  The Mammon and the Beans and Other Stories.  Houston, TX: Arte Publica, 1994.

Stories that concern the cultural blending of the American past and American future of the Texas border country.

Paton, Alan (South Africa).  Cry, the Beloved Country.  New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

This story of two South African families united in tragedy, one black and Zulu-speaking and the other white and English-speaking, is the most widely taught of all African novels.

Piglia, Ricardo ( Argentina). The absent city. Durham: Duke University Press, 2000.

A type of mystery novel, this story takes place in a fictional re-creation of Argentina’s violent military dictatorship (1976-1983), a period also known as the “Dirty War”. The story follows a journalist, whose wife has been disappeared in the political violence, in his search for a magical “storytelling” machine that will tell his wife’s story, as her disappearance has denied her voice the opportunity to speak.

Prose, Francine (Czechoslovakia).  Guided Tours of Hell: Novellas.  New York: Metropolitan Books, 1997.

 The novellas are portrayals of life in Czech concentration camps.[9]

Puig, Manuel ( Argentina). Kiss of the Spider Woman. New York: Knopf, 1979.

Two political prisoners, Valentín and Molina, pass the time telling their stories. Although the two are very different men, Valentin is a Marxist revolutionary and Molina a homosexual window-dresser, and initially Valentin is annoyed by Molina’s incessant talk of movies, after their time together the two fall in love.

Ramati, Alexander (Poland).  And the Violins Stopped Playing: A Story of the Gypsy Holocaust.  New York: Franklin Watts, 1986.

And the Violins Stopped Playing is based on the personal experiences of a Polish gypsy fleeing the Naziís extermination policies.

Roa Bastos, Augusto ( Paraguay). I, the Supreme. New York: Knopf, 1986.

Focusing on the character of the dictator – a recurring theme in Latin American literature – the novel’s central character is based on José Gaspar Rodríguez de Francia, who made himself dictator of Paraguay in 1814.

Sartre, Jean-Paul (France).  The Wall and Other Stories.   New York: New Directions, 1948.

A prisoner waiting for the firing squad is the starting point for Sartreís reflections.

Silone, Ignazio (Italy).  Bread and Wine.  New York: New American Library, 1986.

An Italian returns to his fascist homeland during the rule of Mussolini hoping to start a Communist revolution.  He hides from the Fascist authorities by pretending to be a priest and living among the peasants.  He soon learns, however, that his poor neighbors care little for ideology; they are only trying to survive the day.[10]

Skármeta, Antonio ( Chile). Burning patience. New York: Pantheon Books, 1987.

This novel is considered by many to be a tribute to two figures that gave hope to many Chileans, ousted Socialist President Salvador Allende and Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

Skármeta, Antonio ( Chile). I Dreamt the Snow was Burning. London: Readers International, 1985.

This novel portrays a group of Chilean youth who come of age during the presidency of Salvador Allende.

Solhenitsyn, Alexander (Russia).  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch.  New York: Praeger, 1963.

A simple peasant who has spent many years in a brutal Stalinist prison camp, Ivan symbolizes the qualities of human dignity and survival.

Also: First Circle (1968)
Also: The Gulag Archipelago (1974-76)
Also: Cancer Ward (1983)

Steinbeck, John (USA).  The Grapes of Wrath.  New York: Viking, 1939.

The Joad familyís bitter journey from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to the orchards of California in pursuit of a better life has become a classic of American literature.

Stone, Sarah (Africa).The True Sources of the Nile:A Novel.Doubleday, 2002.

The True Sources of the Nile is a love story about an American woman, Anne, living in central Africa and trying to improve the conditions of the Burundi people.While there, Anne falls in love with a Tutsi man, Jean-Pierre.In the midst of racial fighting, family crises, and a family secret that haunts Anne, Anne and Jean-Pierre try to deal with the differences in their pasts and to forge a future together.[11]

Styron, William (USA).  The Confessions of Nat Turner.  New York: Ransom House, 1967.

A historical novel about the slave uprising in Virginia in 1831.

Swift, Jonathan (Ireland).A Modest Proposal.New York:Dover Publications, Inc., 1996.

A Modest Proposal, written in 1729, is a satire in which Swift proposes that Irish children be used as food by the English Ė a proposal Swift uses to demonstrate the horrific treatment of the Irish by the English.A Modest Proposal is a literary classic that speaks bluntly of the human rights abuses and economic exploitation that occurred during Englandís colonization of Ireland.

Tabio, Paco Ignacio (Mexico).  Four Hands.  New York: St. Martins Press, 1994.

Four Hands is set in Mexico in the 1980s, but moves back and forth in time and includes historical characters like Pancho Billa, Houdini, and Leon Trotsky.

Tan, Amy (USA/China).The Joy Luck Club.Prentice Hall, 1994.

The Joy Luck Club focuses on the lives of four Chinese mothers and their daughters.The tale begins with four Chinese women, recent immigrants to the United States, meeting to play mahjong and to tell stories.Through their stories, the women the reveal the complex and often tragic lives of women in China, while simultaneously showing the undeniable ties between mothers and daughters.

Taylor, Mildred D. (USA).  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  New York: Dial Press, 1976.

Growing up in rural Mississippi during the Depression, eleven-year-old Cassie and her family struggle to maintain their pride in a troubling world of poverty and racism.  A Newberry Award Winner.

Thornton, Lawrence (USA).  Imagining Argentina.  New York: Doubleday, 1987.

In the 1970s during the Argentine junta, Carlos Rueda discovers he possesses a miraculous gift: he can envision the fate of the disappeared.

Toer, Pramoedya Ananta (Indonesia). House of Glass.  W. Morrow, 1992.

 House of Glass is a portrayal of concentration camp life in Indonesia.[12]

Traba, Marta ( Argentina). Mothers and shadows. London: Readers International, 1986.

This novel presents the conversation of two women, one young, one older, who reunite after a period of time and discuss their common experience of having been witness to violence, as well as having been kidnapped, and sequestered during a time of political violence and repression. Through talking of their shared traumatic experience, the two women are able to heal.

Uchida, Yoshiko (USA).  Journey to Topaz.  Scribner, 1971.

 Journey to Topaz is about Japanese-Americans who are rounded up and evacuated to internment camps.

Valenzuela, Luisa (Argentina). Other weapons. Hanover: Ediciones del Norte, 1985.

Many of the works included in this collection of short stories denounce the repression and violence inflicted by the military government, often times focusing on a female character and the unique effects of dictatorship as experienced by women.

Vargas Llosa, Mario ( Peru). The Feast of the Goat. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2001.

This novel follows Urania Cabral, a native of the Dominican Republic who fled her country for the United States during her adolescence out of fear caused by her father’s fall from the dictator Trujillo’s good graces. The storyline follows Urania as she returns to her native country after many years of exile to visit her debilitated father.

Vassilikos, Vassilis (Greece).  Z.  New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 1968.

Z tells of the assassination of Lambrakis shortly before the Colonelsí coup in Greece and is the source for the Costa-Gavras movie.

Vonnegut, Kurt (USA).  Mother Night.  New York: Harper & Row, 1968.

The US Secret Service asks a man to pretend to be a Nazi and he finds out that "we are what we pretend to be."

Also: Player Piano

West, Morris (USA).  Proteus.  New York: Morrow, 1979.

Proteus is a novel based on political crime and repression in Argentina.

Wild, Margaret (USA).  Let the Celebrations Begin!  Orchard Books, 1996.

In this work, a child in a concentration camp makes gifts with the women to share when the camp is liberated.[13]

Wright, Richard (USA).  Native Son.  New York: Harper and Row, 1940.

In Native Son, Bigger dies without ever fully living, condemned by his blackness in a racist society.

Yoder, James D. (USA).Lucy of the Trail of Tears.Xlibris Corporation, 2000.

Lucy of the Trail of Tears is a fictional work about Lucy, a Cherokee woman who is forced by the U.S. Government to relocate with her family to the Oklahoma Territory.[14]

Zola, Emile (France).  Germinal.  Translated from the French with an introduction by Havelock Ellis.  London: Elek, 1972.

Germinal is a classic of French naturalism that portrays the "underclass" of 19th century Paris.

Zwi, Rose (South Africa).  The Umbrella Tree.  New York: Penguin 1990.

The Umbrella Tree is a fictionalized retelling of the 1976 Soweto "Revolt of the Children" in which 20,000 black children marched to protest the enforced use of Afrikaans in their schools.



[1] Based on a review from Booklist reprinted on

[2] Based on a review from Booklist reprinted on

[3] Based on a review from Kirkus Reviews reprinted on

[4] Based on a review from Ingram reprinted on

[5] Based on the synopsis provided by

[6] Based in part on a review by

[7] Based on the synopsis from

[8] Based on a review by

[9] Based on the synopsis from

[10] Based on the reviews on

[11] Based on the synopsis provided on the book jacket

[12] Based on the synopsis from

[13] Based on the synopsis from

[14] Based on the synopsis provided by

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