By Brian Bethune - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 0 Comments
The Canadian author has given more than $1 million in royalties to charity
Back in 2000, when she first published The Breadwinner and dedicated the royalties from it to an Afghan women’s group, Canadian writer Deborah Ellis hoped, for its sake, the novel would earn back the entire $3,000 publisher’s advance. Today, after 9/11 and the shift of international focus to Afghanistan, The Breadwinner and its two sequels (Parvana’s Journey and Mud City) are one of the most famous trilogies in recent tween literature, and their royalties total more than $1 million. The money has all gone to causes dear to Ellis—mostly, via Canadian Women For Afghanistan, for girls’ education in the war-torn nation—although Mud City’s returns are dedicated to Street Kids International. “I don’t notice it going,” says Ellis, laughing, in an interview at Pomegranate, a Persian restaurant in Toronto. “It’s all whisked away before I see it, like an automatic savings plan.”
Ellis, 52, has now published 20 books, and even without the financial boost of her bestsellers, the Simcoe, Ont., author was able to leave her job as a mental health counsellor five years ago to become a full-time writer. But long before her writing career began, Ellis was passionately interested in what she calls “peace and justice” issues, from anti-war activism to women’s rights. They all coalesced in 1996 after the Taliban captured Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, and gave free reign to misogyny. “Here I was,” says Ellis, “a woman in Canada, used to doing what I want, going where I want—I couldn’t imagine living under a government that restricted that because of my gender.”
Travelling on her savings, she went to an Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan the next year, and again in 1999, and did what she could to help, which turned out to be recording the stories of the women in the camps. Ellis collected a depressingly familiar litany of war horrors, and a few stories specific to the Taliban’s rule: girls’ schools destroyed, women beaten for being out without male accompaniment, and young girls working dressed as boys, risking drastic retribution to bring home a little money or food. She put it all into The Breadwinner, about courageous 11-year-old Parvana, who assumes her dead brother’s place after her father is imprisoned in order to provide for her mother and sisters. The response, financially and critically, was massive, and Ellis can expect more of the same now that her iconic heroine is back in her newest novel, My Name is Parvana.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 11:36 AM - 28 Comments
Barbara Falk compares the Rosenbergs and Omar Khadr.
American justice has been marred in both the Cold War and the War on Terror by a combination of politically motivated prosecutions with larger didactic purposes, the over-reliance on conspiracy charges to lower the burden of proof, and the relaxation of the rules of evidence law. In both eras, the refrain of national security has been invoked. But it is at times of national insecurity that legal safeguards are needed the most, and it is to the most politically unpopular defendants already demonized by the media and in the court of public opinion that the most stringent due-process requirements should be applied. To do otherwise, as both the cases of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and of Omar Khadr attest, is to politicize justice and abuse the rule of law.