Week 3 Secondary Post: Social Justice in Books

When I think about it, I realize a lot of the books I’ve read deal with social justice to some degree. It’s not always at the forefront of the story, but some authors expertly weave elements of justice into their novels.

The Escape by David Baldacci

The Escape by David Baldacci

John Puller’s older brother, Robert, was convicted of treason and national security crimes. His inexplicable escape from prison makes him the most wanted criminal in the country. Some in the government believe that John Puller represents their best chance at capturing Robert alive, and so Puller must bring in his brother to face justice.

But Puller quickly discovers that his brother is pursued by others who don’t want him to survive. Puller is in turn pushed into an uneasy, fraught partnership with another agent, who may have an agenda of her own.

They dig more deeply into the case together, and Puller finds that not only are her allegiances unclear, but there are troubling details about his brother’s conviction . . . and someone out there doesn’t want the truth to ever come to light. As the nationwide manhunt for Robert grows more urgent, Puller’s masterful skills as an investigator and strengths as a fighter may not be enough to save his brother or himself.

Baldacci confronts the legal system and its flaws. In his book, Robert Puller is wrongly convicted for a crime he didn’t commit. This reveals that sometimes innocent people are convicted and other times guilty individuals are let off scotch-free. Moreover, a few of the wealthy characters are able to bypass certain aspects of the system because they are able to pay people to keep their mouth shut. This further highlights the discernible inequality between the rich and poor.

The fictional story makes readers question whether the laws implemented in real life are effective. Additionally we have to wonder whether the punishments for breaking the laws can truly achieve any measure of justice.

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.

But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?

The story explores human’s desire for true freedom. Gerta’s world is constantly censored and monitored by the people in power. For instance, microphones are hidden in the apartment to eavesdrop into the conversations Gerta have with her mother and brother.

Those who don’t abide by the laws are punished accordingly. During her fight for freedom, Gerta breaks nearly every rule she’s ever known, but she feels that doing what is best for her and her family is the right to do.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Diaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who—from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister—dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú—a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following them on their epic journey from Santo Domingo to the USA.

Readers witness the varying treatment of characters based on factors such as skin colour, size, etc. The narrator repeatedly refers to the dark skin colour of Oscar’s mom especially to contrast with the lighter skinned residents in the neighbourhood. Also since Oscar is overweight, he fails to find love. He’s obsessed with girls more than any other character. His obsession with finding love can be seen as his hope to find someone to cure his loneliness.

Oscar’s journey focuses on what it’s like to start a life in another country where you’re part of a minority. People regarded as “strange”, “weird”, or “different” face challenges of discrimination. Although we shouldn’t judge people by their appearance, we do it on an instinctive level.

Sky Key by James Frey

Sky Key by James Frey

Endgame is here. Earth Key has been found. Two keys—and nine Players—remain. The hunt for Sky Key has begun.

With only two keys left to claim, the remaining Players will stop at nothing to find Sky Key—wherever it is, whatever it is—as the world begins to crumble.

In a dystopian society where the world is falling apart, it doesn’t seem as though justice would exist. However, the rest of society cope rather peacefully. Citizens help each other, families reunite, and random acts of kindness offset the violence associated with Endgame.

The Players have been trained to fight all their lives. So when it’s revealed that the second key is an innocent child belonging to one of the Players, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong blurs. Is it right to kill one person—an innocent child even—in hopes of saving the lives of billions? Sky Key delves into the causes and consequences of violence to tackle why some humans see fighting wars or battles as a solution.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

Zusak examines the implications of censorship in books by the government. Moreover books are burnt to stop citizens from collective reading which leads to individual thinking. On a larger scale, the story tackles issues arising with a lack of access to proper education.

It also looks at outright discrimination and racism of certain groups or individuals. In particular, Jewish people are stripped of many rights. Many go missing, some are outright killed, while others are taken to concentration camps.

(All summaries can be found on Amazon.)

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