Teens Anthology Explores Human Rights Under Threat

‘At a time when we are seeing a nightmarish surge in hate crimes, this anthology is, unfortunately, all too relevant’ – Nicky Parker

A new anthology from Amnesty International aimed at young people explores the rights and freedoms we enjoy in the 21st century and those for which we still need to fight. Here I Stand is published by Walker Books on 4 August, £10.99.

The thought-provoking collection brings together 25 leading writers and illustrators. Their stories and poems are poignant, challenging, heartbreaking, angry and haunting. They cover important and relevant issues likely to resonate with teenagers today, such as bullying, race hatred, child sex abuse, freedom of speech, identity and gang honour. All of them touch upon the importance of having the courage to speak up against injustice.

Contributors include John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, poet Jackie Kay, Costa-winners Frances Hardinge and Christie Watson, Carnegie 2016 winner Sarah Crossan, Matt Haig, Neil Gaiman, AL Kennedy and imprisoned Wikileaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

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The writers show how precious and fragile freedoms are, and the need to defend them constantly. Many write from direct knowledge. Jackie Kay wrote her poems after talking to refugees in Scotland. Elizabeth Laird’s tale of child trafficking was a result of meeting young Pakistani boys trafficked in the UAE. Before writing Redemption, Ryan Gattis sat down with a man on death row. Christie Watson witnessed the effects of FGM, the subject of The Importance of Screams, during her time as a NHS nurse. While Neil Gaiman wrote I Believe… in response to the Paris terror attacks, and Bali Rai wrote The Colour of Humanity because of the tragic death of Liverpool teenager Anthony Walker in 2005, at the hands of racists.

Nicky Parker, Amnesty’s Head of Publishing, said:

“At a time when we are seeing a nightmarish surge in hate crimes, this anthology is, unfortunately, all too relevant. The enthralling stories and poems confront many horrors – but they also speak for freedom, solidarity and activism.

“The writers don’t shy away from the terrible realities of the abuses and dangers we see today – whether that be fear of terrorism, hostility to refugees, lives locked into ‘honour’ gangs, child sex abuse, invasive state surveillance, homophobic bullying, or race hatred.

“Reading Here I Stand will help young minds confront some of the darker aspects of humanity. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are some empowering stories, as in the midst of horror people show compassion and courage. We hope the book will inspire readers to realise that we all need to support each other, and do what we can to bring about the school, community and world we want to live in.”

The anthology has an introduction by prominent human rights lawyer Jules Carey who represented the family of Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper vendor who died after being struck by police during the G20 protests. Carey warns that hard-won rights, often paid for in blood, ‘can be lost in a moment’, and that the anthology bears witness to humanity’s fierce and timeless longing for justice and freedom.

Amnesty International with Walker Books will publish Here I Stand on 4 August. Amnesty has also produced a free teaching resource to help teachers use the book in the classroom.

Contributors: John Boyne, Chibundu Onuzo, Jackie Kay, Matt Haig, Liz Kessler, Amy Leon, Sita Brahmachari, Jack Gantos, Elizabeth Laird, Ryan Gattis, Sarah Crossan, Frances Hardinge, Bali Rai, Sabrina Mahfouz, Neil Gaiman/Chris Riddell, Christie Watson, AL Kennedy, Kevin Brooks, Mary and Brian Talbot/Kate Charlesworth, Tony Birch, Tim Wynne-Jones, Chelsea Manning.