My son’s favorite phrase this month is “That’s not fair!” I’ve made an extra effort to try to help him understand why we have certain rules. And after reading the young adult nonfiction account, People Who Said No, of some people who said “No! This is not fair!”, I felt like I have some solid examples I can give him of just what truly is “not fair” in the world.
In People Who Said No (Annick Press, 2013), Laura Scandiffio outlines a few of the people in history who made a difference by standing up for what was wrong. Some chapters felt like miniature biographies of people I’d heard of but never before studied in depth. Included were Hans and Sophie, two young adults who took a stand against Hitler’s rise; Helen Suzman, the lone politician in South Africa who spoke out against Apartheid; the people of Egypt who mounted a mostly peaceful protest against their leader; and many more.
The stories also had a mixture of results. Some, like the young people speaking against Hitler, were futile attempts for themselves: they gave their lives. Oscar Romero, a Catholic archbishop who spoke against the government in El Salvador, also was assassinated Others, like the people of Egypt and Helen Suzman, eventually influenced their government and brought about a change in policy or leadership. No matter the results, the legacy of standing up against unfairness does inspire us to consider our own civil actions. Am I willing to risk my life for what I know is right?
My favorite chapter was the one on Rosa Parks. Although I knew her story, I was inspired to read how the result of her moment of defiance. It would not have been easy to defy in the first place, and Rosa Parks ended up being just the right, unassuming person to be at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. I found the coincidence of the bus driver to also be highly ironic: Rosa Parks symbolically rode a bus for cameras on the day that Montgomery’s buses were no longer segregated and the man who drove the bus she got on that day was the same man who had called the police on her years before for not abandoning her seat. What a triumph!
People Who Said No is well written and I believe it is appropriately suited for young adults. Because some of the people who “said no” did end up being killed and because the unfair situations these people faced are difficult, it probably should not be read by children who cannot handle these facts. Life truly was not “fair” for many of those in this book.
I’m inspired by their stories. I do hope that someday my son will likewise be inspired, once he is better able to grasp just what “fair” is, of course (he is only five years old). There is a time and place for saying “no.”
Note: I received a digital review copy of this title from the publisher via netgalley for review consideration.