Book cover: Guantanamo Boy

by Lauren Allison and Marsha Rakestraw

In Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera (2011, grades 7-12), Khalid Ahmed is a 15-year-old living in Rochdale, UK.

When his family goes to Pakistan to visit family after a funeral, Khalid’s world is turned upside down. Not only does his father disappear, but Khalid’s chance appearance at a protest and his penchant for playing video games leads to his kidnap and arrest.

He wakes in an unfamiliar location, in shackles, and no one will tell him where he is or why he was taken.

Khalid finds himself interrogated by U.S. soldiers who have used misconstrued evidence and lies told by others to brand Khalid as a terrorist. Khalid’s life becomes a series of interrogation rooms and methods of torture to get the answers his captors are seeking.

After being waterboarded, Khalid is told that if he agrees to sign documents admitting that he was part of a plot to bomb several cities, they’ll send him home.

Instead, he is sent to Guantanamo Bay, where he spends the next two years of his life, struggling to maintain his sanity and to survive.

Eventually a lawyer hired by Khalid’s family – who had not given up hope of seeing him again – gets him set free.

Once released, Khalid struggles to assimilate to life at home and to find a way to live in the world knowing such injustices can happen.

Guantanamo Boy is a useful book for sparking discussion about issues such as global politics, war, human rights, and whether torture is ever an ethical or valid method for obtaining credible information.

Also use the book as a segue for exploring solutionaries throughout history who have taken torture and/or imprisonment and turned it into a platform for making real change (or who have risked imprisonment or torture to do good).