The Voice of Witness Reader: Ten Years of Amplifying Unheard Voices

About the Book

Since 2005, Voice of Witness (VOW) has illuminated contemporary human rights crises through its oral history book series. VOW books amplify the voices of people impacted by—and fighting against—injustice.

Voice of Witness’s work is driven by the transformative power of the story, and by a strong belief that social justice cannot be achieved without deep listening and learning from those marginalized by systems of oppression.

This selection of narratives from the organization’s first ten years includes stories from occupied Palestine, Sudan, Chicago public housing, and the US carceral system, among many others. Together, they form an astonishing record of human rights issues in the early twenty-first century; a testament to the strength of the human spirit in the face of incredible odds; and an opportunity to better understand the world we live in through connection and a participatory vision of history.

Narrators Include:

DAN, who was arrested on false charges the night before Hurricane Katrina and held in Orleans Parish Prison. When the storm came, guards abandoned the building, leaving Dan and his fellow inmates to break out of their cells to save their lives.

KALPONA, a leading Bangladeshi labor organizer who led her first strike at fifteen while working in a garment factory. As an adult, she now faces arrest, torture, and constant surveillance for her work.

ADAMA, a sixteen-year-old Muslim American in New York who was abruptly seized from her home by the FBI in the post-9/11 backlash on suspicion of being a suicide bomber. Even after her release from detention, she was forced to wear a tracking bracelet for the next three years.

IBTISAM, the director of a children’s center in the West Bank whose work and life is significantly constrained by mobility obstacles and violence against Palestinian communities.

About the Editor:

Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including Zeitoun and A Hologram for the King. He is the founder and editor of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces a quarterly journal (Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern), and a monthly magazine (The Believer). In 2002, he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth. In 2004, Eggers co-founded the Voice of Witness book series with Dr. Lola Vollen.

Related Resources

View the Lesson Plans
The lessons use oral history to promote a nuanced understanding of human rights crises.
Book Club Discussion Questions
Use these questions to encourage meaningful discussions about the book.
Q&A in Salon
Read a Q&A about the book with editors Dave Eggers and Mimi Lok.

To read a Voice of Witness book is to feel one’s habitual sense of disconnection begin to fall away.

george saunders, author and macarthur genius

The Voice of Witness series is a megaphone for our country’s most marginalized voices.

VAN JONES, reporter and author