What We’re Reading – Winter 2019
December 18, 2019

Welcome to this winter’s list of reading recommendations, hand-picked by Center for Human Rights and Global Justice staff, fellows, and researcher. Whether you want to take an in-depth look at the impact of digital surveillance on human rights, find out how the US established a global network of black sites, or follow twelve Native Americans to the Big Oakland Powwow, you’re sure to find something here to round out your winter reading list.

Ellie Happel, Adjunct Professor and Haiti Project Director, Global Justice Clinic

Ellie recommends three books to read this winter related to the topics she works on in the Global Justice Clinic: the first being applicable to everyone, the second about an indigenous man in America, and the third by renowned Haitian author Edwidge Danticat.

Behave book coverBehave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst by Robert Sapolsky (Penguin Random House, 2017).
From the celebrated neurobiologist and primatologist, a landmark, genre-defining examination of human behavior, both good and bad, and an answer to the question: Why do we do the things we do? Sapolsky’s storytelling concept is delightful but it also has a powerful intrinsic logic: he starts by looking at the factors that bear on a person’s reaction in the precise moment a behavior occurs, and then hops back in time from there, in stages, ultimately ending up at the deep history of our species and its evolutionary legacy.

“An excellent exploration of to what extent we have free will, and the many factors that contribute to human behavior.  Important science background to support movements for social change.”—Ellie Happel

There There book coverThere There by Tommy Orange (Penguin Random House, 2018)
Tommy Orange’s debut novel follows twelve characters from Native communities: all traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realize. Among them is Jacquie Red Feather, newly sober and trying to make it back to the family she left behind. Dene Oxendene, pulling his life together after his uncle’s death and working at the powwow to honor his memory. Fourteen-year-old Orvil, coming to perform traditional dance for the very first time. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native American—grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism.

Brother I'm Dying book coverBrother I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat (Penguin Random House, 2008)
When she was four, Edwidge Danticat’s mother left Haiti to join her father who had gone to New York two years earlier, leaving her and her younger brother, Bob, in the care of her father’s brother, Joseph. Edwidge came to think of her uncle Joseph as a second father because he treated her with such tenderness. Until she was twelve, when she finally joined her parents in Brooklyn, she lived in the Bel Air section of Port-au-Prince as a member of her uncle’s family. While Edwidge struggled to integrate herself into her parents’ household, her uncle was absorbing the challenges of life in Haiti as its political situation deteriorated and violent gangs gained in power. The story Danticat tells is often disturbing as the people she loves are exposed to misfortune, injustice, and violence, but ultimately, Brother, I’m Dying is reassuring in its expression of deep familial love and enduring bonds.


Rebecca Riddell, Senior Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights

Rebecca shares two books, both related to her work with the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. The first, on her “to read” list explores the relationship between equality and prosperity. Rebecca’s second selection is a “must read” which touches on themes relating to climate change, environmental degradation, and human rights. Earlier this year, the Special Rapporteur published a report on the effects climate change has on people in poverty.

Unbound book coverUnbound: How Inequality Constricts Our Economy and What We Can Do about It by Heather Boushey (Harvard University Press, 2019)
Do we have to choose between equality and prosperity? Many think that reducing economic inequality would require such heavy-handed interference with market forces that it would stifle economic growth. Heather Boushey, one of Washington’s most influential economic voices, insists nothing could be further from the truth. Presenting cutting-edge economics with journalistic verve, she shows how rising inequality has become a drag on growth and an impediment to a competitive United States marketplace for employers and employees alike.

The Overstory book coverThe Overstory by Richard Powers (W.W. Norton, 2018)
The Overstory, winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, is a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of—and paean to—the natural world. From the roots to the crown and back to the seeds, Richard Powers’s twelfth novel unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. There is a world alongside ours—vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive, and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.

Sara Robinson, Legal Fellow, Global Justice Clinic

Sara Robinson, our legal fellow working on accountability for the US rendition and torture program in the Global Justice Clinic, recommends a feature film and a report by a longstanding partner organization. Both of these resources document the US torture program, a calculated, coordinated global program of kidnapping, rendition, and incommunicado detention. The Global Justice Clinic is proud to represent survivors of this program, as they seek acknowledgement and accountability for what they endured.

The Report movie posterThe Report (2019)
An idealistic Senate staffer leads an investigation into the CIA’s post-9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program. A relentless pursuit of the truth uncovers explosive findings and the lengths to which a brutal secret was hidden from the American public. This riveting thriller is based on actual events and a bi-partisan approved, Senate Intelligence Investigation and Report.

CIA Torture Unredacted (2019)
This report presents the findings from a four-year joint investigation by The Rendition Project and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism into the use of rendition, secret detention and torture by the CIA and its partners in the ‘War on Terror’. Between 2001 and 2009, the CIA established a global network of secret prisons (‘black sites’) for the purpose of detaining terrorism suspects, in secret and indefinitely, and interrogating them through the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The abuses which took place were severe, sustained, and in clear violation of domestic and international law. The perpetrators have never been held to account.

Christiaan van Veen, Director, Digital Welfare State and Human Rights Project

Christiaan recommends two books related to CHRGJ’s latest project on the Digital Welfare State and Human Rights. The project, led by Christiaan, aims to investigate systems of social protection and assistance in countries around the world that are increasingly driven by digital data and technologies. The digital welfare state represents a revolution in the administration of benefits and social assistance systems in countries across the globe. The project will look specifically into the relationship between the roll-out of digital welfare states and the protection of human rights norms.

Justice in the Digital State book coverJustice in The Digital State: Assessing the Next Revolution in Administrative Justice by Joe Tomlinson (Policy Press 2019)
Exploring how justice is delivered at a time of rapid technological transformation, Justice in the Digital State exposes urgent issues surrounding the modernization of courts and tribunals whilst examining the effects of technology on established systems. Case studies investigate the rise of crowdfunded judicial reviews, the digitization of tribunals and the rise of ‘agile’ methodologies in building administrative justice systems. Joe Tomlinson’s cutting-edge research offers an authoritative and much-needed guide for navigating through the challenges of digital disruption.

Age of Surveillance Capitalism book coverThe Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for A Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff (PublicAffairs, 2019)
In her latest book, Shoshana Zuboff provides startling insights into the phenomenon that she has named surveillance capitalism. The stakes could not be higher: a global architecture of behavior modification threatens human nature in the twenty-first century just as industrial capitalism disfigured the natural world in the twentieth. Zuboff vividly brings to life the consequences as surveillance capitalism advances from Silicon Valley into every economic sector. Vast wealth and power are accumulated in ominous new “behavioral futures markets,” where predictions about our behavior are bought and sold, and the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new “means of behavioral modification.” With little resistance from law or society, surveillance capitalism is on the verge of dominating the social order and shaping the digital future–if we let it.

Katie Wightman, Executive Director

Katie recommends three diverse books relevant to different aspects of human rights practice. Discovered through her work on the Human Rights Resilience Project, the first offers a self-care framework to strengthen the mental health of advocates. Inspiring her work at CHRGJ, the second provides a human-centered approach to bringing people together. Finally, drawn from her work in the Global Justice Clinic, the third reshapes how we think about obstacles, suffering and adversity—the inevitable challenges of human rights work.

Healing Justice book coverjpgHealing Justice: Holistic Self-Care for Change Makers by Loretta Pyles (Oxford University Press, 2018).
In the context of multiple forms of global economic, social, and cultural oppression, along with inter generational trauma, burnout, and public services retrenchment, this book offers a framework and set of inquiries and practices for social workers, activists, community organizers, counselors, and other helping professionals. Healing justice, a term that has emerged in social movements in the last decade, is taught as a practice of connecting to the whole self, what many are conditioned to ignore—the body, mind-heart, spirit, community, and natural world. Using case studies, critical analysis, and skill sharing, self-care is presented as an act of resistance to disconnection, marginalization, and internalized oppression. Healing justice is a trauma-informed practice that empowers social practitioners to cultivate the conditions that might allow them to feel more connected to themselves, their clients, colleagues, and communities

Art of Gathering book coverThe Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters by Priya Parker (Riverhead, 2018)
In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker argues that the gatherings in our lives are lackluster and unproductive–which they don’t have to be. We rely too much on routine and the conventions of gatherings when we should focus on distinctiveness and the people involved. At a time when coming together is more important than ever, Parker sets forth a human-centered approach to gathering that will help everyone create meaningful, memorable experiences, large and small, for work and for play. Drawing on her expertise as a facilitator of high-powered gatherings around the world, Parker takes us inside events of all kinds to show what works, what doesn’t, and why.

David and Goliath book coverDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell (Back Bay Books, 2013)
In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks. This books draws upon history, psychology, and powerful storytelling to reshape the way we think about the world around us.

Book summaries are from the publisher unless otherwise noted.


Your information has been sent successfully!