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Quick Facts (from Enrique's Journey)

  • About 700,000 immigrants enter the United States illegally each year. In recent years the demographics have changed with many more single mothers arriving.
  • Nearly three-quarters of the 48,000 children who migrate alone to 'el Norte' through Central America and Mexico each year are in search...

A 2015 Snapshot of the Global Refugee Crisis
Go, Went, Gone is set in Berlin during the thick of the ongoing international refugee crisis. Germany and many other countries have become a destination for those who leave home for reasons of violence, conflict, persecution, human rights violations, poverty, and war.

The historic event, now termed the Global Refugee Crisis or European...
A brief history of borders
Most of us take it for granted that every person on earth is the citizen of a nation state, but this is a relatively recent concept.

Take Europe for example. Although there had long been empires that stretched across large tracts of land, up until the Middle Ages Europe was essentially made up of multiple city states. Indeed, the ...
A Brief Look at the American Communist Party and Labor Unions
America prospered at the turn of the 20th century, but that prosperity wasn't reflected in working conditions or compensation for laborers. Many on the left felt the American Federation of Labor leadership was corrupt and began to support Eugene V. Debs' Socialist Party. There was then a further schism, created by those who felt...
A Short History of al-Qaeda
The history of the Sunni-Muslim organization al-Qaeda ('The Base') can be traced to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Osama bin Laden, a young, wealthy Islamic idealist from Saudi Arabia, felt compelled to assist his fellow Muslims in their struggle against these 'infidels.' He moved his factories to Afghanistan, and ...
A Short History of Social Security in the USA
  • The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935.
  • In the 1960s the age when men were eligible for retirement benefits was lowered to 62 and health coverage was extended to Social Security beneficiaries aged 65 or older.
  • One in six Americans (45 million) receives a Social Security benefit, almost 1 in 3 ...
A Short History of the Gulag
The Soviet system of forced labor camps known as the Gulag spanned nearly four decades of Soviet history and affected millions of individuals. GULAG is an acronym of Glavnoe Upravlenie Lagereian which, depending on the source, translates as 'The Main Directorate for Corrective Labor Camps' or 'Main Camp Administration'. The earliest camps...
Aboriginal Land Rights
Carpentaria is essentially a novel about the clash of cultures, told from the perspective of the Aboriginal people of Australia. Just as the book illustrates, there is still debate in Australia about who can legitimately claim rights to the land - indigenous Australians, or descendants of the original European settlers. From the ...
Admiralty Law
Pirate Hunters, Robert Kurson's real-life tale recounts the struggle to locate and recover sunken treasure. The obstacles are numerous: little or no historical documentation, inaccurate maps, bad weather, and rival scavengers. Additionally, as the book makes clear, a formidable challenge faced by both amateur and professional salvagers of...
Age of Consent
The age of consent, according to western law, is the age at which a person is capable of agreeing to engagement in sexual activity. Stephen Robertson, in his article 'Age of Consent Laws', states: 'Narrowly concerned with sexual violence, and with girls, originally, since the 19th century the age of consent has occupied a central place in...
Albanian Communism
Bashkim Hasani, who is Elsie's boyfriend and Luljeta's father in Xhenet Aliu's novel Brass, was born in an Albanian work camp, one of many which were set up under Communist rule.

The Albanian Communist Party was founded in 1941 with the help of Yugoslavia's communist leader, Josip Tito. An Albanian communist politician, Enver Hoxha, ...
American Brain Drain
'Brain Drain,' aka 'Human Capital Flight' refers to the exodus of educated, professional adults from locations that fail to provide them with the means of achieving success and fulfillment. As a consequence, the communities these individuals leave behind often suffer economic and cultural stagnation. The phrase's origin lies in the ...
American Complicity in Chinese Authoritarianism
Under President Bill Clinton, the United States agreed to allow the People's Republic of China into the World Trade Organization (WTO). The deal was finalized under President George W. Bush in December 2001. It was believed at the time that international trade would help depose one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world like ...
American Labor on the Docks
The Miles Archer character in Gores's novel has earned his tough-guy reputation by helping quell labor unrest on the docks of Seattle, in part by outing 'Wobblies.' For the unfamiliar, this plot line may be a bit confusing, but it is historically accurate, and adds welcome color to the novel's setting.

The history of American labor is ...
American Slavery in the Seventeenth Century
Toni Morrison locates her novel at a moment of transition in American history, the moment when, to use the historian Ira Berlin's terms, a society with slaves became a slaveholding society. British colonialists had owned African slaves ever since the founding of Jamestown, but in the beginning of the seventeenth century, slavery ...
Americans with Disabilities
In the story 'No Place for Good People,' one of the short stories in Homesick for Another World by Otessa Moshfegh, a lonely widower takes a job overseeing the daily needs of three men with 'moderate developmental disabilities.' Despite his personal problems, the protagonist is able to see these men as 'reasonable enough people.' This ...
Bangladeshi Migrant Workers in Malaysia
Tash Ah's We, the Survivors is centered around a Malaysian man who has recently been released from prison, where he served time for murdering a Bangladeshi migrant worker.

Malaysia and Bangladesh are two Southeast Asian countries that have enjoyed a long and mostly amicable history; records show that Bengalis (native to Bangladesh) ...
Black Incarceration and Sentencing
In An American Marriage, Roy is wrongly accused of rape and receives a twelve-year sentence. His only crime, Jones writes, was to be a black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Indeed black men suffer on both counts: they are incarcerated more often than their white counterparts and receive longer sentences. According to the ...
Boarding Schools in the UK
The Secret Place is set on the grounds of an Irish boarding school, an educational institution where children live on campus while they attend classes.

Boarding schools have a rich history in Ireland and neighboring UK (The Republic of Ireland was part of the UK through the 19th century and up to 1922). It is believed The ...
Building a Wall Between Impartiality and Personal Opinion
The protagonist in The Boat Rocker, Feng Danlin, is a journalist who prides himself on being impartial in his reporting and principled about expressing his opinion. Throughout the book he wrestles with the importance of maintaining objectivity. He researches facts and scrupulously reports his findings, calling out fraud where he sees it. ...
Changes to Female Education Pioneered by Women in 19th Century America
The plot of The Illness Lesson revolves around the establishment of a Massachusetts school for girls in 1871 by a man with ideas about female education that are progressive and experimental for this era. The protagonist's father Samuel Hood believes that his teenage students should be offered the same curriculum as their male peers, ...
Changing Sentiments on Gun Control After Parkland
Jennifer duBois' The Spectators is centered around the fallout after a mass shooting at a school, an incident that was rare in the 1990s when the novel takes place, but has become seemingly ubiquitous over the past two decades (See School Shootings & Conspiracy Theories for statistics). Each of these shootings is accompanied by a public ...
Charities That Save Lives
The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 27,000 children die every day from preventable, poverty-related causes.

The Life You Can Save website has links to relief organizations that Singer has examined for effectiveness and transparency:

  • GiveWell leads the campaign for evaluating the ...

Charles Koch and Market-Based Management
Charles Koch, the driving force behind Koch Industries and heavily quoted in Christopher Leonard's book Kochland, developed a philosophy he dubbed 'Market-Based Management' (MBM). Koch considers these principles a guide to all of life and not just a business strategy. For this reason, all his employees are required to not only memorize ...
Child Welfare Services - Falling Through the Cracks
In A List of Cages, even though fourteen-year-old Julian displays all the symptoms of an abused child – missing school, frequent lies, keeping friends at arm's length, poor grades, etc. – he doesn't receive the attention he needs from his teachers or his school district's social services. The authorities ask the ...
Chinese Propaganda Posters
At one point in Lake with No Name, Diane Wei Liang recounts her harrowing childhood experience bringing cabbage in from the frost, a yearly event that all the children at the collective had to participate in to demonstrate their strength and patriotism. Liang describes becoming ill with fever after carrying damp, cold cabbages for hours, ...
Cigarette Smuggling to New York City
In Joan Silber's Improvement, one of the characters starts a cigarette-smuggling venture after getting out of Rikers prison.

A carton of cigarettes might cost around $55 in Virginia but close to double that in New York City because of steep taxes. New York state has the highest state tax on cigarettes and New York City imposes an ...
Collecting, Hoarding and Minimalism: America's Obsession with Stuff
Heart of Junk, the debut novel from Luke Geddes, is set in the fictional Heart of America antique mall in Kansas. The vendors in the mall hope to make some money selling off bits of their collections—Barbies, postcards, glassware, furniture and more. Geddes uses each collection to tell the reader something about its owner, as well ...
In the opening paragraph of God Help the Child, Toni Morrison gives voice to Sweetness, a woman describing herself as 'light-skinned with good hair, what we call high yellow,' who gives birth to a child with very dark skin. She says, 'It didn't take no more than an hour after they pulled her out from between my legs to realize something ...
Community Gardens
In The Garden of Small Beginnings, the book's heroine becomes involved in a community garden.

A community garden is generally a piece of public land set aside for use by individuals who don't have the real-estate or resources to create gardens of their own. Although the idea of a shared planting space has been around for centuries, ...
Contemporary Slavery
On October 28, 2000, President Clinton signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act into law. It charges the State Department to direct and sponsor programs that combat slavery. It also is responsible for evaluating the abolition efforts of any nation with more than 100 slaves.

One of the primary tools the State Department uses ...
Could COVID-19 Spark Lasting Change?
Setting people on a path to change is difficult. And when you're talking about millions of people, it often takes decades to see a mass evolution in behavior. Sometimes, however, a cataclysmic event will act as a catalyst that forces society as a whole to step off the precipice. Such events (e.g., the Great Depression, World War II, ...
Criminal Justice Theories
In the second half of her memoir, Riverine, Angela Palm uses terms she learned from her college criminal justice classes as headings to organize the material. Here's a closer look at a few:

The Broken Windows Theory

In 1982, social scientists James Q. Wilson and George Kelling proposed the broken windows theory to explain why ...
Death Row Syndrome
According to Amnesty International's 2009 report, the USA's 37 legal executions in 2008 placed it fourth in the world after China (1718), Iran (346) and Saudi Arabia (102). However, this ranking needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as it does not adjust for population size; and does not take into account additional executions that may ...
Deaths of Despair
The deceased was a middle-age white man who liked to be called Horsey. A working-class Ohioan who left school after 11th grade, he toiled as a mechanic, then as a laborer and then he bounced around from job to job, barely making a living until he died of an opiod overdose. His death wasn't unusual. In 2015, Princeton economists Anne ...
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
In his memoir Children of the Land, author Marcelo Hernandez Castillo recounts applying for and receiving DACA. This is a temporary immigration status that alleviates some of his worst fears about being deported as an undocumented college student.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a program administered by the United ...
Desegregation Bussing
In 1954, the United States Supreme Court handed down its judgment for Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas.  In their landmark unanimous (9-0) decision, the Court stated that 'separate educational facilities are inherently unequal', and thus ruled segregation to be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the&#...
Detention Centers
In Lisa Ko's The Leavers, one of the female characters is abruptly transported to the fictional Ardsleyville immigration detention center. She is interned in an unheated room with other women, glaring lights on overhead 24/7. She's fed inedible mush, given minimal time outside, and is usually shackled. No attempts are made to secure her ...
Disenfranchisement and Voter Suppression
Despite the fact that voting in a federal election is a primary and vital constitutional right held by American citizens over 18 years of age, the playing field for voters is not equal from one state to another.

In Fortress America, Elaine Tyler May argues that disenfranchisement holds individuals back from contributing to their ...
Domestic Workers in the US
Bridget, the Borden family's Irish maid in See What I Have Done, is a young woman who came to the United States with visions of making a decent living and maybe one day getting married. Sadly, young immigrant women with limited skills and education were more often than not put to work as domestic help. Sadder still, with no union or ...
Farmer Suicides in India
The Lives of Others begins with a shocking murder suicide. A farmer, Nitai Das, kills his children and wife and then himself, out of sheer desperation resulting from abject poverty and hunger. The book's protagonist, Supratik Ghosh, decides to move to rural West Bengal, to help the plight of farmers caught in an endless cycle of debt and ...
Farmers' Cooperatives
As Michael Meyer's book, In Manchuria, explains, in the village of Wasteland, 'Eastern Fortune is offering apartments in exchange for farmers' homes, which will be razed and the land converted to paddies.' It remains unclear exactly how much — if any — control the farmers will have over their plots of land. Will they ...
Federal Raid on Mingo County, West Virginia
In 1988, Mingo County, West Virginia appeared in headlines across the country, with reports of staggering corruption in the southwest part of the Mountain State. There were allegations that elected officials paid for votes, firefighters set property ablaze for insurance payouts, and mom-and-pop trailer shops peddled pot, LSD and PCP.

Finding Employment After Prison
In Sugar Run, the principal protagonist Jodi McCarty has just been released from prison after serving a nearly 20-year term. She finds life as a free woman more difficult than she imagined, largely due to her inability to find gainful employment. This is a common issue with newly released inmates, and one of the leading causes of ...
Food Insecurity and Education
There is no question that Little's life is affected by both his circumstances and the environment he lives in – and the Pierce, Idaho in which Hoffneister sets Too Shattered For Mending is not a figment of his imagination, but a real place, which means that it isn't a question of if there are real teens with the same ...
Foster Care
In Kathryn Glasgow's How to Make Friends with the Dark, 16-year-old Tiger learns that her mother is dead, and almost equally upsetting, she can't even go somewhere familiar to stay while she figures out how to adjust to being an orphan; with no known father or other relatives, she is relegated to the legal responsibility of the state of ...
Gender Bias in the Field of Law
The protagonist of Jeanne Winer's Her Kind of Case is a criminal defense attorney who has been in the legal profession for over 30 years.

While female lawyers aren't rare, law is still an area where women are underrepresented (as are minorities of both genders). According to a 2016 New York Bar Association report, women make up just 25...
Guides to Giving - How to find the right charity
Kristof & WuDunn frequently mention two websites that can help readers decide which charitable organizations to give their money to. These two sites - and – rate charities based on efficiency and other factors and make that information public. You can see whether $90 of your $100 goes to those in ...
Habitat for Humanity
In Maria Padian's How to Build a Heart, the narrator and her family are offered the opportunity to own a brand-new home thanks to Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller while they were living on a communal farm in Americus, Georgia. They understood that decent housing is probably a ...
Healthcare: U.S. vs. Europe

As discussed in Marty Makary's The Price We Pay, the United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and it spends more money per person on healthcare than any other developed country in the world. Recent data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that America spent $10,209 per capita ...

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