Libraries Helping Communities Around the World
Libraries are often the cornerstone of communities. Libraries offer people free internet, resources, events, workshops and books. These resources allow many people to pursue education. In the United States, more people have easy access to libraries than in developing nations. However, there have been libraries helping communities all over the world find creative ways to access the resources a library can provide.

The Zambia Library Service

The Zambia Library Service aims to bring more provincial and public libraries to the country, to improve the libraries in schools and colleges, and to provide more digital resources to educators. This library now has a collection of more than 60,000 books, despite struggling to receive government support. The library service started six provincial libraries that serve about 400,000 individual members and 850,000 institutions every year. Furthermore, it established the Zambia Knowledge Center in 2011 to help provide Zambia’s educators and students with a wealth of online sources from around the globe.

The library continues to advocate for the expansion of copyright laws so that more people can receive access to videos, e-books, audiobooks, journals and websites. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Zambia Library Service aims to provide new opportunities for community members to engage with the library. It hosts movie nights, events for International Girl Child Day and a Girl’s Club.

Bangkok’s The Library Train Project

Police Major General Jarumporn Suramanee started The Little Train Project in Bangkok in 1999. He converted two old train cars into a library and education center. These cars have a school area for classroom lessons and a library with books, computers and a television. Suramanee initiated this project because the number of homeless children in the city had been steadily increasing. As such, it was designed to give children an opportunity to receive an education, a place to stay during the day and options for a better future.

Bangkok’s library train features lessons in typical academic subjects and classes on topics such as manners, sports and gardening. Though children are not required to attend class, many enjoy coming to the library to use the resources it has to offer. Furthermore, the library has aided its patrons in other ways, such as helping individuals find a job or helping homeless children find families who want to take them in. It is also intentionally located in the park so it is as accessible as possible.

Norway’s The Bokbåten Epos

Norway’s The Bokbåten Epos was a boat that aimed to give books and other cultural resources to small, rural, fjord communities. The ship visited 150 small villages in less than a month after it was built in 1959. The boat was designed to hold 6,000 books, but it often circulated 20,000 books at a time. Furthermore, the ship would often bring other events such as concerts and plays—usually the only cultural events these villages would see in a year.

Unfortunately, The Bokbåten Epos shut down in 2020. This upset many Norwegian citizens. However, the government hopes to find a solution that is more cost-effective, environmentally friendly and that can access more areas. The Bokbåten Epos could also serve as a model for other libraries committed to helping communities.

Zimbabwe’s Donkey-Drawn Libraries

A nonprofit called Rural Libraries and Resources Development Programme (RLRDP) started a mobile library project to help provide more resources to Zimbabwe’s rural schools in 1990. These schools struggled to be acknowledged and receive the needed funding. These 15 mobile libraries can hold up to 1,000 books each. Additionally, four donkeys pull these books along to increase the distance the mobile libraries can travel.

These mobile libraries work with communities to tailor services to people’s needs, such as using bikes to deliver books or making more stops if there are elderly patrons or patrons with disabilities. Additionally, some of these carts have solar electricity and internet access that allow access to e-books and educational resources, as well as make it possible to hold movie events. These mobile libraries have helped nearly 1,600 people and have become an integral part of communities.

Many people who live in impoverished, rural areas do not have access to books or other services that libraries provide. These innovative libraries are focused on helping impoverished communities and have successfully helped thousands of people. Efforts like these around the world have the power to transform education in developing countries.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr

Books About Poverty in North KoreaThere are countless statistics and facts about global poverty on the internet. While this is very helpful in providing readers with a sense of what is happening around the world, it can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, statistics and facts do not adequately reflect the reality of impoverished nations.  Thus, many people rely on novels to understand the human experiences within impoverished nations. Poverty in North Korea is unknown to most people, and books are a good way to educate readers.

Storytelling relays information and allows people to collect official data. It allows readers to grasp the reality and emotions of others. According to the BBC, personal experiences are paramount in effectively bringing attention to the significant problems around them. The emotional response readers have serves as a catalyst for aid.

North Korea and Poverty

North Korea is a mysterious and unknown country to many people. Since 1948, its population has reached 25 million. As a result of its economic structure and lack of participation within the world economy, poverty in North Korea is prevalent. Approximately 60% of North Korea’s population lives in poverty.

North Korea has a command economy, which is commonplace among communist countries. The government has control over all monetary exchanges, causing the economy to remain relatively stagnant due to a lack of competition between businesses. Additionally, North Korea’s trade restrictions and sanctions have deeply hurt the country’s economy. As a result, the lack of participation has effectively barred the country from growing within the international market. Its economy is vulnerable to collapse and rates of poverty in North Korea continue to soar. Fortunately, these books below strengthen the fight against global poverty by illustrating the suffering that occurs there and showing why action is needed.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee

This novel was published in 2015 and has been universally praised for its ability to convey such deep human emotion in harrowing situations. The Girl With the Seven Names is a biography of the author’s experiences in North Korea. It reflects Lee’s struggle to escape poverty with her family. In this book, Lee describes the horrid treatments and deplorable conditions that she faced living under the current North Korean regime.

Furthermore, she explains how such experiences have emotionally affected her and those around her. This work provides an inside look into the realities of poverty in North Korea. Additionally, readers are able to better understand the living conditions faced by this country’s populace.

The Accusation by Bandi

The Accusation is a series of short stories published between 1989 and 1995. This work is unique being it is not a traditional memoir, rather, it contains small chapters reflecting the everyday lives of those living in poverty in North Korea. The country’s secretive nature has made it difficult to acquire information. As such, Bandi’s work has become one of the very few sources within the country. Bandi has chosen to live within North Korea in order to continue reporting. The Accusation has been given tremendous praise for its honest writing and its importance as a primary source.

Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-Sung

Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea is critically acclaimed as an exposé on the way high-ranking officers of North Korea live. Author Jang Jin-Sung was previously the poet laureate to Kim Jong-il. Thus, he obtained access to extremely censored information. In this work, the author and protagonist lend a forbidden magazine to a friend and are forced to flee the country as fugitives. His writing gives an insightful account of how the upper-class lives and how the hierarchical power structure operates.

Additionally, Jin-Sung’s novel discloses the political pressure of working close with Kim Jong-il and the harsh consequences of spreading information. Jin-Sung is able to provide an astonishing amount of valuable information for readers to understand the social injustice in North Korea.

How These Books Help

These are only several books that shed light on people’s experiences and poverty in North Korea. Fortunately, many NGOs and countries continue to sent food and monetary aid to help those living in poverty. The most prevalent of North Korea’s donors are China and South Korea, with China having specifically sent an astonishing 240,074 tons of food to North Korea in 2012. Additionally, the United Nations has received pledges from Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, Norway, France, Germany, Denmark, Finland and Ireland to aid in alleviating poverty in North Korea.

Although North Korea appears to be mysterious and secretive, researching the living conditions within this nation is not impossible. Through the primary sources and biographies reflecting life in North Korea, readers are able to understand human struggles which have occurred in this area for over half a century. Acknowledging poverty and understanding the means to provide aid has motivated many to take action today.

-Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

Struggles of RefugeesFact or fiction, books are a great way to create empathy and understanding of the real-life experiences of other people. An experience that is not uncommon yet unique to each individual who has lived it, is the global refugee struggle. There are many books that tell the stories of refugees and contemporary fiction books are only one example of a genre that can raise awareness through storytelling. Raising awareness about the struggles of refugees through books and literature helps encourage more humanitarian efforts directed at helping refugees.

Kiss the Dust

Published in 1994, this historical fiction book by Elizabeth Laird takes place in 1991. Tara is a 12-year-old Kurdish girl living in Iraq during a time when conflict was high between Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Kurds. After her father’s involvement with the Kurdish resistance movement, Tara and her family are forced to flee to Britain, where her whole world changes completely. Though “Kiss the Dust” is more about Tara and her family’s struggles as refugees living in London, there is also a lot of focus on the Kurdish resistance movement in 1991 and the trauma that many experienced because of it. There is also an emphasis on overall trauma from war-ridden areas, something that has lasting effects on refugees.

The Red Pencil

“The Red Pencil” was written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and published in 2014. Inspired by a true story, it revolves around 12-year-old Amina living in Darfur, Sudan, in 2003. She nearly loses everything when her village is attacked, and after, she and her family are forced to find a refugee camp on foot. This book describes the struggles of her journey to the refugee camp in Kamal as well as her struggles while living in the camp. Due to the trauma, Amina stops speaking. Eventually, one of the relief workers gives her a red pencil which she uses to begin her journey of recovery. While describing Amina’s journey, the book also highlights Sudan and its prolonged conflicts and wars, showing how many Sudanese people have been forced to flee their homes throughout the years, making Amina and her family only one of many Sudanese refugees.

The Bone Sparrow

Written by Zana Fraillons and published in 2016, “The Bone Sparrow” follows a young boy named Subhi who was born in an immigration detention center in Australia. His mother and sister were part of the flood of Rohingya refugees who escaped their homeland due to the genocide of their people. Because he spent his entire life behind fences, Subhi struggles to curb his curiosity about the outside world. His only access is through his mother’s stories and his imagination. Eventually, he meets a girl on the other side of the fence who contributes to his journey of freedom, imagination and knowledge about the world. Through Subhi’s struggles, the author illustrates the refugee struggle of not having a place to truly call home. The story also shines a light on the Rohingya genocide and the number of refugees created as a result, a conflict still going on today.

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles

Enaiatollah Akbari was 10 years old when his mother sent him to Pakistan from Afghanistan, to protect him from the Taliban, portraying the many years the Taliban have been creating conflict in areas around Pakistan and Afghanistan. Published in 2010, the novel by Fabio Gada revolves around Akbari’s five-year journey as he travels through Iran, Turkey and Greece, eventually ending up in Italy at the age of 15. Throughout his journey, he encounters many hardships. This story highlights a refugee’s journey of loss and rebuilding.

The Good Braider

Published in 2012 by Terry Farish, this book is about a Sudanese family escaping war in their homeland and eventually ending up in Portland, Maine, a place with a lot of other Sudanese immigrants. The community of Sudanese refugees in the United States portrayed in this book shows the impact of the current and previous conflicts in South Sudan. The main character, Viola, struggles to balance the differences between her Sudanese heritage and the culture of the United States. By portraying Viola’s struggles within a Sudanese immigrant community, this book highlights the communal struggles of refugees and immigrants living in the United States.

The Unique Struggles of Refugees

Though the characters are fictional, all of these stories are based on real-life events that forced thousands of people to flee their homes. From war to genocide, each book highlights a unique yet similar set of events that the characters experience, based on their history, setting and context. These different perspectives not only allow people to empathize with victims of history but also bring more of an understanding about the lives of refugees and encourage more humanitarian efforts to address this global issue.

– Maryam Tori
Photo: Flickr

fighting poverty with booksOxfam, an organization based out of Kenya, is fighting global poverty with books. How does that work, exactly? All over the world, second-hand Oxfam bookstores have popped up, sparking interest in the cause.

Oxfam: Alleviating Global Poverty

Oxfam provides support to people worldwide who suffer from disasters and poverty and works to build lasting solutions to these problems. Through “challenging the powerful,” Oxfam aims to hold those in power accountable for their actions in order to promote sustainable change. Oxfam challenges those in power by allowing disadvantaged groups’ voices to be heard, pressuring policy change and starting discussions with those in power to advocate for those in poverty. Throughout their 70 years of existence, the lives changed through Oxfam are widespread.

Nearly one out of every three people live in poverty. The organization believes that the global community can alleviate global poverty by confronting the injustices in the world. In doing this, Oxfam provides a voice for those who often go unheard in their daily lives.

While working in 90 countries, Oxfam alone has changed the lives of tens of millions of people worldwide. Many different strategies are used, such as supporting NGOs on the ground aiding communities in need, donating funds and resources to humanitarian organizations and pursuing legal action for those in need. But perhaps the most interesting is the use of fighting global poverty with books.

The Oxfam Bookstore: Fighting Poverty With Books

A popular place for local bookstores to emerge is in Great Britain. Walking through Oxford, near the pub C.S. Lewis frequented, is an Oxfam bookstore. The books within are donated to the organization and dispersed to their many locations. In selling these books to raise money, Oxfam is able to further fund their multi-faceted poverty-fighting agenda.

In these bookstores, it is easy to find books from all genres. A typical look through the stores features books from popular Young Adult fiction to antiquated books that are no longer in circulation. If a large bookseller hears about Oxfam, it is quite common for newly printed copies to be put on the shelves, as well.

If there is not an Oxfam bookstore location near you, it is now possible to shop their selection online. To promote the organization’s values, it is essential for them to collect as many books as possible to boost sales. When looking online, it is easy to find the genres, and even has a highlighted section to promote antiquarian, signed and valuable books.

To be more specific, volunteers to run both Oxfam thrift stores and book shops around the world. The funds raised are then dispersed to their various home bases. Through these bookstores’ contributions and by providing an accessible platform for people to donate and contribute to valuable causes, Oxfam furthers the global fight against poverty.

Fighting Poverty One Book at a Time

For book lovers who want to change the world, Oxfam bookstores are a great way to help out those in need, while finding the newest story to delve into. From just a quick search, first edition novels such as Ross Poldark, Will Grayson and The Screwtape Letters can be found in these volunteer-led bookstores. Prices vary depending on the quality and rarity of these works, but it is clear that fighting global poverty with books is a great way to benefit both those in need and your own book cravings.

By fighting global poverty with books, Oxfam encourages widespread education that can be available to everyone, without having to explicitly say it. Confronting those in power to be held accountable for the change they can provide in relieving global poverty can be done through the simple transaction of a book from a small shop.

– Natalie Belford
Photo: Pexels

Hesperian Health Guides
The average global life expectancy is now above 70 years, and infant, neonatal and maternal mortality and infectious diseases have declined all over the world. Unfortunately, though, the statistics hide a crucial disparity: the inequality of life expectancy. This disparity highlights the health issues that continue to plague poor countries. For example, while life expectancy in Japan is 83 years, it is 30 years less in a poorer country like the Central African Republic. People continue to die of preventable diseases because of a lack of funding and health education. Fortunately, Hesperian Health Guides is there to help.

Hesperian Health Guides is a nonprofit that fights to bring life-saving healthcare information to even the most remote corners of the world. Its mission is to work toward a better future for everyone. It wants an empowered future where everyone has the tools and education necessary to control and understand their health.

Health

Though not founded until 1973, the spirit of Hesperian Health Guides started in the early 1970s in Ajoya, Mexico. There, a group of volunteers put together a simple pamphlet. This pamphlet included medical knowledge to help locals take care of their health needs in the absence of qualified doctors. Established as the Hesperian Foundation, the organization published the pamphlet, with “Donde No Hay Doctor” as the title. Four years later, the organization published “Where There is No Doctor,” an English translation. This publication later became the most widely read health book in the world.

Work

In collaboration with countless health workers, doctors, locals and volunteers, Hesperian Foundation, renamed Hesperian Health Guides in 2011 to more clearly communicate its mission, continues to publish and translate texts regarding all kinds of health concerns, spanning from women’s health to handicap health, and everything in between. A digital platform has also been available since 2011. It allows individuals better access, translations and downloads of additional medical information.

Accessibility

To further its mission of providing accessible healthcare information for all, Hesperian Health Guides are published in over 85 languages. The translation is in part facilitated by the nonprofit’s open copyright policy, which permits the translation, modification and distribution of its life-saving texts without requesting royalties in order to facilitate the speed and spread of information to needy communities. In addition, local healthcare workers collaborate on both print and online content. Their input presents texts in simple, culturally-sensitive languages and illustrations, benefiting those with little to no education.

Impact

Healthcare workers, members of the Peace Corps, educators, community leaders, volunteers and missionaries use Hesperian Health Guides in over 220 countries around the world. Benefited communities have written to Hesperian Health Guides to testify to the cumulative effect health education has on vulnerable communities. The guides, however, also empower individuals. Through comprehensive information and small action-tasks, people are able to take better care of themselves and others. They can help by learning simple tasks like disinfecting surgical tools or building a small water filter.

Hesperian Health Guides is working to raise the life expectancy of everyone by spreading health information to many neglected people. It is saving lives one book at a time.

– Margherita Bassi
Photo: Flickr

Inspirational Books with Advocate Authors
Book lovers or activists on the search for an inspirational read should find interest in this book list. From stories of equal access to education to serving the world’s poor, here is a list of five inspirational books with advocate authors.

5 Inspirational Books with Advocate Authors

  1. “I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb: Growing up in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai faced barriers as a woman. Malala loved school, but her life changed when the Taliban took over her town. It banned girls from attending school when she was 11 years old. After speaking out on behalf of girls’ right to an education, a masked gunman shot Malala while on her bus ride home from school. Miraculously, she survived and became an advocate for girls everywhere, sharing her story in her book “I am Malala.” She once said, “I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls.”
  2. “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela: Regarded as an international hero for his fight against racial oppression in South Africa, Mandela went on to tell his story in this inspirational autobiography. Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and was also the leader of the African National Congress’ armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, before his presidency in South Africa from 1994-1999. Mandela received a conviction on charges of sabotage and other crimes as he led a movement against apartheid, serving 27 years in prison. Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for his groundbreaking work that led to the beginning of the end to apartheid.
  3. “The Moment of Lift” by Melinda Gates: A New York Times instant best-seller, Melinda Gates’ “The Moment of Lift” tells the stories of the women she met during her years of humanitarian work and research around the world. Simultaneously, she also tells the story of her personal journey to achieving equality in her marriage to Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Gates makes this foundational claim in her evocative book: “When we lift up women, we lift up humanity.” President Barack Obama praised Gates’ first book for its power and importance: “In her book, Melinda tells the stories of the inspiring people she’s met through her work all over the world, digs into the data and powerfully illustrates issues that need our attention—from child marriage to gender inequity in the workplace.”
  4. “Becoming” by Michelle Obama: Michelle Obama, the first African American First Lady of the United States of America, tells her impressive story in this thought-provoking novel. From growing up on the south side of Chicago, balancing an executive position, motherhood and her time as First Lady, Obama demonstrates her dedication as an advocate for women and girls everywhere. In this number one U.S. bestselling memoir, Obama promotes inclusivity and displays important advancements toward healthy living for families everywhere, cementing her place in this list of inspirational books with advocate authors.
  5. “Mother Theresa: In My Own Words” by Mother Teresa: Mother Teresa was a Roman Catholic nun who worked for over 40 years in India. She ministered for the sick and poor as she founded and expanded the Missionaries of Charity. Mother Teresa became a famed humanitarian and advocate for the poor by 1970. She received the Nobel Peace Prize for her inspirational and selfless work in Calcutta, India. A collection of quotes, stories and prayers, “Mother Teresa: In My Own Words” is a testament to the power of her words, not only for the poor but for everyone around the globe.
Poverty links inextricably to so many other issues that are plaguing the world today. Between equal access to education, food security and racial segregation, it is impossible to ignore the connection between all of these issues. These inspirational books with advocate authors serve as informative and motivational pieces of writing that remind everyone to be global citizens and actively fight for one another.

– Hannah White
Photo: Flickr

authors who dealt with poverty
Throughout history, humans have mastered the art of storytelling. Through images, oration and literature, authors have told unique stories that reflect their culture and experiences. Books endow readers with the gift of understanding another perspective. While some authors have enjoyed lavish lifestyles, others traveled down a rugged road with only a dream. These are five authors who dealt with poverty.

5 Authors Who Dealt With Poverty

  1. John Steinbeck: Born in 1902 in the rural Salinas Valley in California, Steinbeck was neither rich nor poor. At a young age, Steinbeck became fond of writing. After a brief tenure at Stanford, Steinbeck went to New York. An inability to secure employment paired with abysmal living conditions compelled him to return to California. In Lake Tahoe, he worked as a caretaker for an estate and as an employee at a fish hatchery. He bore extensive hours of work with unbearable temperatures. After multiple unsuccessful attempts as a writer, Steinbeck wrote his first successful novel, “Tortilla Flat,” in 1935. He went on to author “Of Mice and Men” and “The Grapes of Wrath” which both highlight the difficulties of migrant workers during the Great Depression. “The Grapes of Wrath” went on to win the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1940. In 1962, John Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in literature.
  2. J.K. Rowling: The acclaimed author of the Harry Potter series, Rowling did not come from humble beginnings. After a brutal divorce in 1994, Rowling became a single parent to her daughter. She had no money or job, forcing her to rely on British welfare. In 1997, Rowling’s life changed with the publishing of her book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” She went on to write six more books in the series that sold upwards of 400 million copies. Her net worth today sits at around $1 billion. The Harry Potter series manifests some of the struggles in Rowling’s life, most profoundly, death. Her struggles in early adulthood stemmed from her mother’s death after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. After this trauma, Rowling was indecisive about the path she should take, similar to Harry Potter throughout the series.
  3. Stephen King: Regarded as one of the greatest horror writers of all time, Stephen King is another author that did not have an easy upbringing. At the age of 2, King’s father abandoned his family, leaving them in utter poverty. King’s mother took multiple low paying jobs in an effort to make ends meet. When he reached adulthood, King became employed at a textile mill in Maine. He worked outrageous 20-hour shifts with minimal pay. This work inspired him to write his first piece, “Graveyard Shifts.” After graduating from college, King took a low paying job at a laundromat and later secured a demanding teaching position hoping to provide for his family. During this time, King began writing “Carrie.” Upon finishing “Carrie,” publishers rejected it 30 times before publishing it. The novel helped King earn over $200,000 and jumpstart his writing career. He went on to write bestsellers such as “The Shining” and “It.” King was always interested in the horror genre because he had experienced a great deal of trauma during his life. King’s novels such as “The Mangler,” “Salem’s Lot” and “Duma’s Key” all include elements of his struggles throughout life
  4. Charles Dickens: One of the most influential writers of the Victorian Era, Dickens has constructed a plethora of acclaimed novels. Born in 1812, Dickens was the second oldest of eight children. While his parents worked to provide the best life possible, the family remained poor. In 1822, the family moved to the poor neighborhood of Camden Town in London. Dickens’ father went to prison for being in debt shortly after in 1824. As a result, Dickens had to leave school and work at a run-down shoe polishing factory. He worked strenuous hours to only earn six shillings per week. Dickens was able to return to school when his father paid his debts and left prison but he ended up working again at the age of 15 to help his family. In 1836, Dickens published his first book, “Sketches by Boz.” He married soon thereafter and went on to publish stellar novels such as “Oliver Twist,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Great Expectations.” Dickens’ early life played an integral role in shaping his works. His feelings of being usurped of his childhood and education are evident in books such as “Hard Times” and “Oliver Twist.”
  5. George Orwell: Born in 1903 in Bengal, India, people have lauded George Orwell for his creative works based on his societal observations. Orwell characterizes his parents as those with wealthy attitudes without substance. In 1911, Orwell returned to England with his parents and began attending boarding school. Despite being brilliant, people ostracized Orwell due to his poverty. In 1928, he went to live among the poor for over a year in London and, later, Paris. In Paris, he worked as a dishwasher and attempted to understand the lives and values of the poor. Orwell’s disdain for imperialism prompted him to write “Down and Out in Paris and London,” a fictional recount of his time in Paris and London. In 1946, Orwell began writing “1984,” which describes a future dystopia where the entire world succumbs to poverty due to governmental repression. Other famous works include “The Road to Wigan Pier,” which highlights the life of impoverished mine workers in England, and “Animal Farm,” an allegorical satire of communism and the Soviet Union.

These five authors who dealt with poverty are examples of people who did not give in to the demeaning nature of poverty. They used literature as an outlet to convey their deepest emotions. Books entail more than fictional elements. They are a reflection of the events and hardships in the author’s life with perennial lessons, and these authors are an exemplification of this.

Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

Books on Poverty

Listed below are four fiction and non-fiction books on poverty. The novels not only share interesting stories and plots, but they also demonstrate the injustice of poverty and remind the readers of the importance of fighting back and helping people overcome these odds.

4 Books on Poverty

  1. Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers
    Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a non-fiction novel by Katherine Boo — Pulitzer Prize winner and staff writer for The New Yorker. Her novel sheds light on families trying to better their lives in a makeshift settlement in Annawadi, while the rest of India begins to flourish. Boo spent three years in India personally gathering stories about the struggles these families faced. The novel begins by revealing the harsh truth of living in slum life; families make money by selling rich people’s garbage while facing adversity like wrongful imprisonment. Boo also shows how corruption in institutions like hospitals, charities and the education system threatens poor communities. Behind the Beautiful Forevers won the National Book award in 2012. The novel has been added to the common core and the teachings continue to be shared in high schools everywhere.

  2. NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names
    We Need New Names
    is a fictional novel written by Zimbabwean author, NoViolet Bulawayo. Bulawayo’s novel is about a young girl’s journey out of Zimbabwe and into the United States. The book focuses on life in Zimbabwe in the early 2000s. At that time, the country was in a political upheaval; the young girl and her family were forced to move to a new village after their home was bulldozed by the government. The book tells of the obstacles of living in a poverty-stricken country, and the family’s need to get out and start a new life.

  3. Robert D. Kaplan’s Surrender or Starve: Travels in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea
    Kaplan’s Surrender or Starve: Travels in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea is a non-fiction novel that explores the ethnic, religious and class conflicts of people in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea in the 1980s. Kaplan studies the reasons for famine in the region and offers both a forward and afterward, which explains how the region has developed since the famine in the 80s.

  4. Nicholas D. Kristof’s and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
    Half the Sky is a non-fiction novel about the oppression of women and girls in the developing world. The novel introduces struggling women throughout Africa and Asia, some of which share their tragic experiences of being sold into sex slavery and suffering dangerous injuries during childbirth. The novel also gives hope to the audience by sharing how these women overcame the obstacles of living as a woman in poverty to lead fulfilled, successful lives.

Not only do these four books on poverty entertain their readers with interesting stories, but they also emphasize the importance of fighting back and helping to end poverty by sharing the harsh reality of living in a poverty-stricken community.

– Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

Books About Poverty
Books, historically, impress on people in ways no other medium can. Their value is indisputable and has proven a necessity throughout time as a means to communicate and collect knowledge. Literature covers an array of genres, from horror to romance, technology to business—a book can really contain anything. In today’s complex world, people also use books to spread the news of relevant issues, and specifically, can spread the news of global poverty. Publishers have published hundreds of books about poverty in the last century alone, but a few have shone through in recent years. If anyone wants to become more informed about global poverty, the list of books about poverty below would be a perfect way to start.

5 Good Books About Poverty

  1. The End of Poverty” by Jeffery Sachs takes a look at poverty from an economic standpoint. The author, both an avid traveler and economist himself, utilizes both analytical research and personal experience in developing nations to provide an in-depth assessment of global poverty. His travels through Bolivia, India, China, Russia and Africa complete the picture of global poverty he tries to address. At the same time, he provides insight on how to escape poverty through the perspective of global economics. The unique economic standpoint permits not only a glimpse into the issues but also ideas of how to fight them.
  2. Behind the Beautiful Forevers” snapshots the life of a settlement just outside the airport of Mumbai, India. Author Katharine Boo eloquently follows the stories of various individuals living in the area as a way to highlight poverty in India. She also utilizes the narrative to explore controversial themes within the Indian context, from politics to economics to religion. As a nonfiction bestseller, the book won a National Book Award in 2012. With a central focus on the developing parts of India and a strong written backbone, this book about poverty offers great insight into a complex issue of the world.
  3. How China Escaped the Poverty Trap” captures the country’s development from a struggling nation to an economic powerhouse with a global standing. Taking into account China’s entire development holistically, author Yuen Yuen Ang frames his analysis with a combination of history, economics, politics and general sentiments of the Chinese throughout the years. In addition to an isolated look at China, Ang finds methods of comparison between other nations as they rose into prominence, such as the United States. This book about poverty showcases how a country can come up from poverty and become an established force in the world.
  4. A Poverty of Rights” analyzes Brazil’s governmental growth and the effect it has had on the nation’s poorest classes. Though the country has grown to protect most rights of its citizens, it seems that the country left out the lower classes during the developmental period, resulting in difficulty for these people to even survive in their own country. Author Brodwyn Fischer assesses the damage through both a political and legislative perspective, highlighting both the progress of the country and the challenges it still faces.
  5. Poverty in South Africa: Past and Present” explores the persistent nature of poverty in Africa, both of today’s times and of the past. Author Colin Bundy’s book about poverty, published in 2018, is able to provide an accurate account of the trouble times due to several factors. It takes a look at Africa’s society from various perspectives, including (though not limited to) historical, economic, financial and political. The book focuses on the root factors affecting poverty in Africa to try and answer the question of why the country has yet to develop further in today’s modern world. This work assesses Africa’s situation on a logical scale, allowing the reader to view challenges with an objective thought process.

Books have a way of capturing a concept more holistically than any other form of record. While they can contain basic information, authors also have the distinct ability to make an audience feel and empathize with the subject. As such, books are also the perfect way to discuss poverty. Readers are able to learn about the issues and also visualize them with immense detail. They are truly a way to spread the word about poverty.

Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Unsplash

Literacy Rate in India
India witnessed an increase in its overall literacy rate, jumping from 64.8 percent in 2001 to 74 percent in 2011. To further encourage this upward trend, Pratham Books is introducing children to new adventures and worlds. Pratham Books is a nonprofit publisher empowering Indian children with the joy of reading. According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), in 2016, one out of two Indian children could not read at their grade level. Pratham Books is on a mission to improve the youth literacy rate in India.

Accessibility of Pratham Books to Different Reading Proficiencies

Pratham Books offers children a variety of programs to encourage them to read. From their bright and colorful storybooks to their cost-efficient story cards, Pratham Books has created a platform for everyone to enjoy. The storybooks expand over a wide range of genres, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama.

Pratham Books divides books into four levels; emergent, early, independent and fluent readers. Instead of children deciding to read a book based on age, they can choose based on their reading proficiency so they can learn at their own pace. The nonprofit publisher also explores STEM, cultural and bilingual topics.

The Importance of Library-in-a-Classroom

According to the World Bank, nearly 22 percent of India’s population was living in poverty in 2011. For many low-income families, children do not have access to school supplies, including books. Pratham Books created a solution to this issue through its Library-in-a-Classroom (LIC) initiative. The LIC is a portable bookshelf that schools can hang on a wall and can hold over 100 books. Though the LIC does not have rows upon rows of shelves, it does provide children with a library-like atmosphere and inspires them to read.

StoryWeaver and Digital Books

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 40 percent of the world lacks access to education in a language they can understand. Aside from print books, Pratham Books also supplies children with digital storybooks through its digital platform, StoryWeaver. With over 15,000 stories in nearly 200 languages, StoryWeaver is not only a place where children can read and learn but also create, translate and download content for free. In an interview with The Economic Times, Chairperson, Suzanne Singh, stated that with nearly 400,000 users on StoryWeaver, the company’s “readership…has grown outside India.” People as far as African and Canada explore StoryWeaver’s rich content while supporting a good cause.

“A Book in Every Child’s Hand”

From 2017-2018, Pratham Books shared nearly 1.5 million books across India. Through the assistance of its partners, Pratham Books also established 300 libraries in government schools. That same year, the nonprofit publisher’s Donate-a-Book campaign was able to provide 45,000 children with access to a library. Pratham Books has recently released PhoneStories, granting children access to its stories while on the go.

Through Pratham Books, thousands of children now have access to books in school and their language. With more and more young children introduced to reading, the youth literacy rate in India continues to increase. The nonprofit publisher may have begun in India, but it is greatly impacting the world and empowering children.

– Emily Beaver
Photo: Flickr