Saturday, March 28, 2009

REVIEW: After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance, by Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien

After Ghandi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance, by Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien. Published 2009 by Charlesbridge Books. Nonfiction. Biography. Young Adult.

After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance, by Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien, profiles sixteen world leaders who practiced nonviolent resistance to various political regimes in the twentieth and early twenty-first century, beginning with Mohandas Ghandi in 1908 Johannesburg, South Africa, up to protests against the Iraq War in America. It is aimed at 9-12 year old children and is illustrated with black and white pastel artwork.

Authors Anne Sibley O'Brien and Perry Edmond O'Brien have selected a pantheon of leaders from all over the globe- the reader goes from South Africa to Vietnam, to Alabama, Belfast, Prague, Beijing and more. There are names likely to be familiar to many readers, such as Muhammad Ali, profiled for his protests against the Vietnam War, and Desmond Tutu, the South African priest, and names likely new to many readers, such as Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi and Charles Perkins of the Australian Aboriginal Rights Movement. Nelson Mandela is profiled as much for his nonviolent resistance to his prison conditions as for his anti-apartheid activism, which, the authors acknowledge, wasn't always exactly non-violent in nature. They provide a brief biographical sketch of each leader and discuss their activities in terms of what each leader gleaned from Gandhi's teachings. For example, they discuss how Cesar Chavez employed the hunger strike to help gain better working conditions for migrant laborers. This analysis helps build a picture of activists of different stripes and working on different issues, learning from each other to build a better world.

The authors use clear, age-appropriate language and an attractive presentation style to communicate with their readers; the illustrations add texture and interest, but I would have liked to see a photograph or two here and there. Since the purpose of the book is to encourage young people to engage in social activism, and the authors are activists themselves (as shown in the Authors' Note at the end), the authors don't even pretend to be objective and that's fine as long as the reader knows what he or she is getting into. The book also contains an annotated bibliography and index to help young readers find source material and reference specific topics in the text.

After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance would be a good choice for families and libraries looking to add to their collection of social-justice nonfiction. I'm debating whether or not to include it the collection I manage, mainly because none of the activists profiled are Jewish (the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, for example, would have been a great choice to profile alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks in the fight for racial equality in the United States) but the book would be fine addition to many collections nonetheless.


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.