Deborah Ellis has been all over the world. And she hasn't just visited places, she's done things. Big things. She went to Pakistan to help at an Afghan Refugee Camp; she went to Israel and the Ghaza Strip to talk with Israeli and Palestinian children; and she went to Malawi and Tanzania to spend time with children orphaned by AIDS. Deborah has written books that draw on each of these experiences - some fiction and some non-fiction - and at the heart of her work is her deep passion for peace and her unwavering support of children.
She says it best: "It has been a real privilege for me to sit with people in many parts of the world and learn how their lives have been drastically altered by war or disease, and how they try to remain kind in spite of it all. This has taught me how fundamentally alike we all are."
Deborah was born in Cochrane, Ontario and grew up in Paris, Ontario. She was a loner who spent much time reading and using her imagination. By the time she was seventeen, she was a political activist and, after graduating from high school, moved to Toronto to work in the Peace Movement and the Women's Movement.
Her first book, Looking For X (published in 1999), is set in Toronto and is about an eleven-year-old girl dealing with twin autistic brothers, a run-in with skinheads, and a false accusation of school vandalism. It won the Governor General's Award in Canada (similar to the Carnegie Medal).
It was after writing this book that she began to travel extensively and hone her unique skill for writing about the intersection of global issues and children, which first came to fruition in The Breadwinner Trilogy, an award-winning series about three different girls living under the Taliban regime: The Breadwinner (2001), Parvana's Journey (2003) and Mud City (2004). Because each book focuses on a different girl, they easily stand alone.
Her other books include Three Wishes: Israeli and Palestinian Children Speak (2004, nonfiction), in which she chronicles the stories of 20 Jewish, Muslim, and Christian children whom she interviewed in 2002; and The Heaven Shop (2004), a novel for young adults about an AIDS orphan in Africa who searches for her siblings.
She donates almost all the proceeds from her books to causes such as "Women for Women in Afghanistan" and UNICEF.
In Her Own Words
Writing books is something I have always wanted to do, and have tried to do, since I was twelve years old, growing up in Paris, Ontario. Writing helps me to understand the world, and myself. While the work of writing is often frustrating and difficult, it can also be glorious and exciting.
As soon as high school was over, I got involved in the movement to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Political activism for peace and social justice forms a large part of my life. My books reflect the heroism of people around the world who are struggling for decent lives. It has been a real privilege for me to sit with people in many parts of the world and learn how their lives have been drastically altered by war or disease, and how they try to remain kind in spite of it all. This has taught me how fundamentally alike we all are.
This biography was last updated on 04/18/2012.
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