According to A Crime So Monstrous, a slave is “a human being who is forced to work through fraud or threat of violence for no pay beyond subsistence.” He also points out that by this definition, there are more slaves now that at any other point in history.
If you’ve read Sold by Patricia McCormack, you know one type of slavery. The other most common type of modern-day slavery is domestic service, which is highlighted in Laura Resau‘s newest book Queen of Water (due out in March 2011). Maria Farinango is listed as a co-author to this novel, and it is based on Farinango’s experiences being sold into domestic service by her extremely poor family in Colombia. We follow her as she educates herself, finds a way to leave the family who has been “employing” her, and makes her way on her own. I suppose if we are being technical about it, this book is historical fiction since it is set in the 1980’s, but it’s modern day enough to remind readers that this is still happening. Interestingly, neither Sold nor Queen of Water mention the word “slavery” nor have “slavery” as a subject heading. They don’t make this stuff easy to find, even in the library.
I also recently read a short story from the upcoming collection Free? from Amnesty International. The one I read, about slavery, was quite brief. It would make a great discussion starter for middle schoolers on modern day slavery or human rights. As would the excellent nonfiction book Every Human Has Rights from National Geographic. The photographs make it worth browsing for anyone, but kids (say grades 4 to 8 ) will especially appreciate this simple presentation that doesn’t dumb down the topic.
It isn’t always easy to talk to kids about human rights issues, either at home or in the classroom, but these conversations are the first step to creating a world without slavery, violence, discrimination, etc. I have to admit to a bit of discomfort when my preschooler picked up the copy of We Are All Born Free that I had pulled off my shelf while writing up this post. She paused on the spread that illustrated our freedom from torture with a bloodied and beaten doll. There was a strong part of me that wanted to grab the book and put it on a high shelf where she wouldn’t get it until she was ready.
I don’t even know what “ready” means. I do know that talking is better than not talking.
- Tolerance.org – For classroom activities that teach about diversity and peace.
- Amnesty International – For news and activism.
- Human Rights Resource Center – For the MN Human Rights Education Experience