UNDER THE RADAR

A discussion of books from smaller publishers by four members of the ALAN Board: Ricki Berg, James Bucky Carter, Paul W. Hankins, and CJ Bott

Guantanamo BoyGuantanamo Boy
by Anna Perera

Today, the committee of Under the Radar is excited to review Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera. It was first published in England in 2009 and will be published by Albert Whitman and Company on August 1st, 2011. The novel is set six months after 9/11, when 15-year-old Khalid and his family, Pakistani father, Turkish mother, and two younger British sisters are visiting family. Without his family’s knowledge, Khalid is arrested as a terrorist and taken first to Karachi, then Kandahar and finally to Guantanamo Bay. During his interrogation, he is beaten and tortured for crimes he did not commit. Guantanamo Boy covers over two years of his life.

We all bring ourselves into every book we read, and sometimes we battle to see beyond our experience. Here is what each of us brings from our experiences on 9/11.

 

Paul’s Experience the Day of 9/11

On September 11th, 2001, I had just arrived at Knobview Hall on the IU Southeast Campus for the American Literature course I was taking that fall. I was a veteran with a sailor’s experience and  G. I. Bill benefits, a new father and recent graduate of Baby Bootcamp (there really is a course), and now a student in his second semester of college. News coverage of the event was shown on a monitor in the hall on the way to my class and I stopped to see that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Thinking back to my military experience, I remembered the day we were placed on high alert because of the terrorist bombing of the same location some ten or so years earlier. My immediate thoughts were somewhere along the lines of “How unfortunate that this building should be damaged again after extensive rebuilding already.” After my class–which met twice a week and was therefore about an hour and a half long, I found out what was really happening outside of our classroom.

Ricki’s Experience the Day of 9/11

Believe it or not, I was actually a senior in high school during 9/11. While in class, the principal came over the loudspeaker and announced the news. I remember being very angry that he couldn’t tell us more. With a relative who went to the twin towers often, I worried the whole day. I had a math test the next block, and because I was so upset, I received a failing grade. It was the only test I failed in high school, and I remember crying afterward, not realizing that I was crying because of the devastation of the 9/11 attack. The whole day and following weeks, I felt like I was in a fog. I watched the news channels over and over for hours. After I while, I realized the channels were replaying the same coverage, but I couldn’t change the channel because I yearned for answers.

Bucky’s Experience the Day of 9/11

I was in my Literary Criticism class at the University of Tennessee, where I was earning my MA, when I heard the news. It came from one of our “flighty” peers, so I thought she meant the trade center in Seattle and figured it was a toy plane. Another peer had a handheld radio, and he tuned in and was able to offer more details. We were all stunned, and class was dismissed early. I remember walking with a good friend of mine who was also in the class and hearing the rumors swirling in those first few hours when no one knew what the heck was going on. Many were worried about the Oak Ridge nuclear facility nearby. Just as many seemed to think there would be an imminent attack on the UT football field, though. It was a strange, weird time when information was coming from all angles and rarely seemed adequately verified. It was hard to know what to expect next. Even though it was a beautiful day outside, it seemed like the sky was falling.

CJ’s Experience the Day of 9/11

I was in study hall when the Latin teacher came in and asked if I had heard—I think I responded with something like, “Oh you mean about the football team . . .?” And then she told me. Immediately I moved my students over to a room with a TV and we watched as a plane hit the second tower. Every one of these students looked at me to see if it was real, to see how I was reacting and they saw my tears. The rest of the day, as I remember it now, is scattered moments with my students, a phone call home and grabbed seconds when I tried to breathe deeply and slowly. Moments when I tried to parallel what had just happened and that incredible blue sky! No classes were canceled; we even had Open House two days later. The parents looked at me for answers, I had no answers but I told them to keep talking with their sons and daughters because like all of us in that room that night, they were scared and very unsure what might happen next.

 

CJ: What is the main focus of this book? Torture? Khalid? Faith?  To challenge the reader to THINK? Something else?

Bucky: I think the book is an expose on methods employed by the U.S. armed forces in the ongoing war on terror, and I think the book is also a testament to human endurance and a way of illustrating that even when good people seem to be doing bad things and bad things happen to good people, there are still those with enough humanity to help set things right like the British lawyer was trying to do. I do think the book seeks for readers, especially American readers, to take a hard look at their country’s strategies and tactics.

Ricki: I agree, Bucky. It feels like the book has a political and social agenda. Perera pushes the reader to question the methods and approaches to terrorism. For me, the central question was: How far should we go to fight terrorism? Khalid is an average teenager with good intentions and a strong sense of family. If he is attacked as a terrorist, anyone could be.

CJ: I agree with both of you. What drew me into the topic, besides the events is that I  find Perera’s writing to be vivid and compelling.  How could I read the following passage and not feel for Khalid?

Lying face down on a concrete floor before interrogators—

Pain shoots up his arms as he wiggles his hands nearer to the ring bolted to the floor to try to ease the pain. Fully aware as he stares at the ring that it’s a chain within a chain. Inside a locked cell. Inside a guarded prison camp circled by tows of high, curling razor wire. Its perimeter patrolled by soldiers carrying guns loaded with bullets, guarding a prison that’s part of a base. A base situated at the tip of an island, in the middle of two oceans. Protected by water on one side and landmines on the other.

The dot on the floor is him, a sixteen-year-old boy. A boy who’s looking at himself from every angle. Looking down on him. Looking up from below. From underneath, then behind and in front. Backwards and forwards, images flash through his brain. Nothing but thin air covers his bones. His lungs. His heart. He can see this own dusty breath sweeping from his mouth.

Mirrors of light bounce from him like laser beams.

“Tell us the name of the fifth accomplice?” (200-201).

Perera creates the complete experience of Khlaid’s time imprisoned and I was as uncomfortable as she wanted me to be. After reading the water-boarding incident and after several other events, I had to put the book down and walk around the room. The scene where the men were made to have their heads shaved was unsettling. But Khalid’s life in solitary confinement touched me the most.  The details of his meals, the worn blankets, the sounds, the blaring music, the men in their prayers, the absence of sounds, the handcuffing before his cell door was opened and again when he returned to the cell, standing with this back to the door while the chains were removed. The closeness of the air, the extreme range of temperatures, the zone where his mind retreated. “There’s something strangely soothing about the thought of screaming his head off.” 209. Disturbing, personally troubling and yet I wanted to keep reading. I am a very proud American, I know things like this have gone in the world for centuries—unrealistically, I just didn’t want it to be on our soil.

Paul: I guess I miss when Perera makes these kinds of assertions (explicitly) unless the reader visits the end notes or further comment on Guantanamo Boy by the author or reviewers. Older readers, discussion leaders, and lead learners will be all too familiar with the horrendous treatment of these prisoners. The author renders these treatments in the detail that is afforded to the length of this book (the length of which is generally reserved for fantasy and paranormal in my reading of Young Adult literature). Herein is where I see Perera asking the reader to draw from some well that may not be there for most young adult readers. We must remember, this is a generation growing up with a sense of cultural approval in regard to a new genre in film called “torture porn.” To this end, I would say that the treatment of the conditions and activities within these holding areas will need to carefully considered and instructional approaches will need to be tailored to each classroom and the students within that learning community.

Further, and I may be challenged for posting this (the forum does not allow for intent and inflection to be conveyed) the takeaway for this reader is found in defining one’s terms. This would be an important lesson for a post-9/11 culture, and one that our culture is still coming to terms with in the midst of war and resolution to war. Our country has been at war with terrorism (our country’s terms, right?) for going on ten years with the release of Guantanamo Boy and I sense that we still have difficulty expressing, in no ambiguous manner, the definition of “terrorism,” or for that matter, “torture.” I am sure some could and feel very comfortable and pleased to take me to task, but one of the more difficult lessons we can teach in the classroom, particularly the reading/writing classroom, is to define our terms. Even more difficult when trying to nail down a definition on ambiguous terms like “freedom” and “security” all the while trying to blend the two into some palatable package. I tell my learners in Room 407 that it is often the person who begins first to talk about the term who gets to set the definition of that term if not met with challenge.

Moving away from the notion of torture and imprisonment–while still staying within the “focus” aspect of the question posed, we might look to how Guantanamo Boy fits into a schema of related stories and works. Underneath the historical backdrop and social commentary (implicit and explicit) of this is the story of a person falsely accused and imprisoned under a system with which they are not entirely familiar but are still accountable to (this should create “ladders (Lesesne 2010) of the reading mind that would include The Crucible and The Scarlet Letter (both of which are set on “our soil”). Teachers employing methods and strategies presented by John Golden in his book, Reading in the Dark, wherein film is used and approached in some of the same ways as literature, might look to the 1999 film, Brokedown Palace (PG-13) starring Kate Beckinsale and Claire Danes. More and more, as I think about how we use Young Adult Literature within our learning communities, I try to think about the connectivity of the new with the the classics of classroom tradition.

 

Bucky: Khalid seems like an average teen until he gets kidnapped, and then he suddenly seems to tap into a lot of anger and “gutsy” resistance. He’d shown some adolescent rebellion before, but nothing like this. What do you think is  the reasoning for having Khalid respond with anger and resistance instead of outright primal fear in those early scenes of his captivity?

Ricki: I was surprised to see such a shift in his character. He quickly developed into a strong, independent person. I wonder if the author intended for readers to feel his anger (rather than hock or fear) toward his captors. Khalid’s thoughts affected my own reactions to his capture. When he became angry, I did, as well. If Khalid responded with fear, I don’t think it would be as easy for readers to develop strong feelings of the injustice of his situation. For me, his resistance gives the book more meaning.

Bucky: I was surprised too. It reminded me of the Peter Parker/Spider-Man dynamic. Peter is the more humble persona, but once he’s in the mask, he uses bravado to get him through. Once Khalid had the bag over his face, he seemed to act similarly. I don’t know if I should say he seemed to act out of character, or if the author is trying to suggest how quickly everything changes in high-stress situations. But, it did feel like an abrupt character shift.

CJ: I think he experienced the powerlessness of fear immediately after he was taken, restrained, hooded, gaged with duct tape, and taken somewhere. When the restraints were removed, he believed he would be able to talk his way out of this very obvious mistake. When he couldn’t, he got mad as no one seemed to taking him seriously or willing to believe him. Anger is a secondary emotion and often a form of protection, it disguises another more basic emotion, for Khalid it was covering up fear. It was easier to be angry than to show how terrified he was. I don’t think he was a particularly strong person at that point, but I believe he found the strength in him through his history and rediscovered faith. There were time references throughout the book that made it clear how long he had been imprisoned–it was always a surprise to me how much time had passed. The reading itself did not give me that understanding. He was strong but while in solitary, depression took over. By the time he got home, he was simply grateful.

Paul: In order to get some kind of sense of Khalid’s initial responses to his abduction and imprisonment, I returned to Carol S. Pearson’s (1991) archetypes as found in her book, Awakening the Heroes Within. What I see the panel describing in the pre-imprisoned Khalid is the shadow of the Innocent archetype, which is traditionally paired with the Orphan archetype. Without reviewing how archetypes work, we can at least look at the strengths, weaknesses, and shadow presentations, of these two archetypes to see what Khalid is doing pre-imprisonment and within confinement. The shadow presentation of the innocent is that they may be blind to their obvious weaknesses or perhaps deny them. Khalid, while a character of another culture presents like so many of the teens we work with in the learning community. There is a sense of innocence coupled with a sense that they don’t need to know what is happening in the world outside of the one they have created for themselves. It’s little wonder that I see, time and time again, the student who finds themselves meeting with a probation officer because of what they, the student, see as a minor transgression. Here is Khalid, playing a game based upon a notion of war and bombing, in a post 9/11 culture with people he knows and trusts as well as those he does not so and subsequently should not trust. But here he is. Incredulous to how a game may be the reason he finds himself imprisoned. We see Khalid enter into the shadow presentation of the orphan archetype when he sees himself as the victim of the activity of others. But, as Pearson shares, both archetypes found separately and in tandem with one another have strengths in optimism and hope (innocence) and interdependence/seeking others in like circumstances (orphanage). When Khalid returns home and performs the simple gesture of polishing his father’s shoes (a beautiful scene of servitude in any piece of literature), we are witness to the wise innocent, still retaining a sense of hope and optimism (innocence) while finding new worth and value in those with whom he has been reunited (orphanage). The wise innocent will also continue to question the intent of Tariq and the game Tariq created as this is what the wise innocent does when they return from the journey. The skilled author is able to bring the reader into a character’s life and to demonstrate the archetypes in their organic presentation (even if the author is not doing this by way of style or approach). The character, Khalid, lends himself nicely to these kinds of conversations particularly when thinking about who he is pre-imprisonment, imprisonment, and post-imprisonment.

 

Ricki: At the end of the novel, Tariq is still in Guantanamo Bay. Does it feel like this is a loose end? Or, does it seem that the author did this to promote social action?

Bucky:  I wonder if we’re not supposed to be left with a feeling of uncertainty toward Tariq. Is he as innocent as Khalid or less so? That lingering tension made me think of Myers’ Monster, another text that deals with young people experiencing a US-centric sense of justice. “Did he or didn’t he?” That reminded me of the guiding “Does she or doesn’t she?” question so central to Daisy Miller. A focus on the centrality of the ambiguous in literature, would, in my opinion, make for some great conversation with students.

CJ: It was a bit unusual that cousins would end up in cells next to each other.  Tariq is more than he seems, perhaps because he has too many “deals” going with the guards. However he did help Khalid from the dark side.

Paul: Ambiguity is a conversation field that is just ripe for the harvesting. It’s the stuff that Bucky is talking about with Daisy Miller that we talk about in The Awakening. It’s a strength of this text to leave this piece purposefully unclear. In order to come full-circle with the story, Perera releases one prisoner while keeping another behind bars. But, while thinking about Tariq, to what degree will Khalid continue to be a prisoner of the conditions he has now survived? Here is where the ambiguity lends itself to an even more tantalizing conversation about recidivism and institutionalization that could bring readers out of the multi-cultural and into the local connections with which they can begin to make reasoned assertions about Khalid’s disposition at the end of the book. Readers could also go back and research the current conditions at Guantanamo Bay. What might have happened to Tariq in light of what they find in their research. Again, I think it’s a great strength of Perera’s to end on this note.

What comes back for me, more than the disposition of Tariq, is the new position within Khalid finds himself as a member reborn into his family.

 

Bucky: Is the USA the new Evil Empire? If you don’t think so, was it hard not to see it that way while you were reading this novel?

CJ: I did get a bit defensive for my country when I was reading this book. I still cry when I say the Pledge of Allegiance having grown up idealizing my country and am not good at accepting injustices, however I have learned as a teacher that the ugliness still needs to be discussed to challenge myself and my students to think about these happenings, form their own conclusions, make their choices, and wave the banners they choose to support.

Ricki: Whenever I read a book, I think about if/how I could teach it and how I can connect it to other books my students have read. I couldn’t help but think of Tree Girl by Ben Mikaelsen. When I read that book with my students, they are always shocked about the United States’ involvement in the Guatemalan genocide. I don’t see the United States as the evil empire, but it would be naive to think that our country has always made good warfare decisions.

Paul: This is the best place for me to take exception with the title of the book. And I am a title guy. I like how an allusion within or from outside of a text lends itself to title in songs and in books. But this play on place is too close to home for this reader. As a veteran of the U. S. Navy who served at Guantanamo Bay for three months as part of a Joint Task Force mission, I think something is missed in a title that suggests Guantanamo Bay is place that is used to torture prisoners. This did not happen when I was there (there were no Camp Deltas or X-Rays while I was there in 1992). In fact, Guantanamo Bay continues to be a thriving locality of contractors, with a fully operational hospital as well as other entities put into place as a service to those members of the Joint Task Force assigned there (a fully operational PX serves as a store and a bank and there is even a McDonald’s on the station). To have a title that seemingly equates one person’s experiences with the place itself might lend itself to a misinterpretation of the mission of the service people at Guantanamo Bay. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay is host to the facilities described in Perera’s work, but it is not the sole mission and day-to-day mode of operation for a base that also receives immigrants into the U. S., providing a transitional place for those who find themselves in exodus. This is in no way an advocacy for the activities described in Perera’s work. I’m more human. . .and more prudent than to make a comment that would even suggest I approve of torture or violation of the guest/host relationship (I’ve read far too many Greek tragedies to be so bold).

CJ: Torture seems to have been around for centuries. I do not understand why anyone thinks torture is an efficient way to get information. I tried to google the origins of torture and discovered Wikipedia seemed to go back the furthest. Here is an excerpt taken on 6 July 2011: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torture#History

Antiquity

The ancient Greeks and Romans used torture for interrogation. Until the 2nd century AD, torture was used only on slaves (with a few exceptions). After this point it began to be extended to all members of the lower classes. A slave’s testimony was admissible only if extracted by torture, on the assumption that slaves could not be trusted to reveal the truth voluntarily.[7]

One of the oldest methods of torture was crucifixion. Its antiquity is indicated in its wide use by the Phoenicians. It was employed also by the Scythians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians and the Carthaginians.[8]Notorious mass crucifixions followed the slave rebellion under Spartacus and the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. To frighten other slaves from revolting, Crassus crucified 6,000 of Spartacus’ men along the Appian Way from Capua to Rome.[9] Prior to crucifixion, victims were often savagely whipped with barbed metal lashes, to induce exsanguination. This had the effect of weakening the condemned and thus sped up what could be an inconveniently long execution process.

Over time the conceptual definition of torture has been expanded and remains a major question for ethics, philosophy, and law, but clearly includes the practices of many subsequent cultures.

Ricki: My biggest take-away from the book was that torture is both ineffective and inhumane. I always knew torture was inhumane, but this book developed that to a view I am much more passionate about. Some people might argue that a small amount of torture is okay if it is for the good of a larger purpose, such as preventing a terrorist attack. This book seems to disprove this thought, stressing the point that torture creates false, misleading information.

CJ: I do not know how a soldier can be trained to be brutal to prisoners. Perhaps it comes with the rawness of combat and war, losing the sense of humanity most of us are born with. Six months after 911, there were many Americans filled with such an intense anger I feared that more than another attack. That anger was closer to me.

In Guantanamo Boy, there seemed to only be soldiers without a sense of humanity, but then a very few others showed up, and when Khalid was transferred to the last area before he left, the humanity seemed to return.

Bucky: I’ve learned that torture, war, and violence all have connections to “othering.” Jap, gook, towelhead — terms like these that become stand-in words for “enemy” help to dehumanize people such that they can be seen as lesser, different, even disgusting. This makes hurting them or killing them easier, it seems. Of course, part of “othering” experiences is supposed to be seeing the self in the gaze of the other/othered, and I think this book does a good job of asking us to do that, whether all readers are ready for it or not.

CJ: “Othering” is one component of bullying. Paul all that you said fits the definition of bullying.

 

 

Ricki: In what ways might this book be used to promote social action from our students?

Bucky: Promoting social action with this text would have to allow for students to be able to act differently, of course. The old standby of writing letters comes to mind, but that might also mean some students would be inclined to offer “Keep up the good work!”-type responses. Teachers would at least have to pretend to be OK with those opposing viewpoints, right? We can’t assume–and I’m not assuming Ricki was doing such when asking this question–that all students will read the text and be incensed at Khalid’s treatment. I think elements of debate would have to accompany discussion of the book and also be part of any lead-in toward taking social action.

Ricki: Great point, Bucky. I think students will have a gamut of reactions to this book. It would be interesting to have a debate about whether torture is appropriate in some situations. I wonder if the book would be a great stepping stone for students to examine aspects of society that they don’t agree with (politically or socially).

CJ: Those people who have the need to speak out, to work towards solution–will read Guantanamo Boy with different eyes than those who bury their heads or are extremely involved in some other part of life.

Paul: This would be a great question to come back to as we find teachers adopting and sharing this title within their learning communities. Initially, without the benefit of instructor anecdote, I could see the lead learner needing to ask, maybe even pointedly, what sense of advocacy or internal shift is happening within the individual reader. I’d like to ask Albert Whitman & Company to allow teachers within this discussion panel to pilot the book in their classroom in the next year to see what responses look like from the students sharing the text. I’m am not thinking that students don’t care, but they are given much to care about from the Disney Channel’s “Friends for Change” spots to the school’s Relay for Life car wash. I think it’s important for we, the lead learner, to have a sense of message and takeaway from the book. We read it, friends–what do we want students to think, say, do, or be after reading this book (answering a question with a question is Socratic, or so I am told).

 

 

Paul: When/if selecting Guantanamo Boy for the classroom, what should this look like by way of scope and sequence? What do the readers need to know before entering into the text? What supports should be in place as the readers read the text? To what degree does the book lend itself to cross-content extensions? What supplementary texts might be considered? Further, what alternative titles might be offered to students who may object to elements of Perera’s work?

Ricki: This book lends itself to great classroom discussions. I think it is important for teachers to give background information about terrorism and Guantanamo Bay. Personally, I would ask students grapple with the question: Can torture ever be justified? I think it would be beneficial for students to track their thoughts about torture and terrorism as they read, citing specific points in the book that affect their thoughts. This book changed my whole concept of torture and terrorism. I think it would do the same for our students.

Bucky: I’m a proponent of the thematic unit if guiding inquiry approach, so I guess I would like for the text to be embedded in a curriculum surrounding a theme or question. Maybe making the text part of a grouping would also make it seem less controversial to include in the first place? I think the potential for cross-content extensions is vast. I mentioned Monster as a text that may deal with issues of justice like this one does. The book did offer many nonfiction links that might help scaffold the text. When I think of alternative titles, I think of “replacements,” and I just don’t know if there is a book that handles the War on Terror as effectively as this one does for a YA audience. Anybody else have other text suggestions?

CJ: As educators isn’t it our mission/our goal to allow our students the freedom to go to the end of their thoughts, to stretch and test their mental boundaries? To allow them to create their own value systems? The best lesson I learned was to walk into class and ask my students. “Okay, what do we need to talk about in this book?”  They named every topic on my list and started the discussions themselves–they had so much to say and they were taking over! I loved it as a supporter of a student-centered classrooms. I have come to believe that we do not teach, the best of us simply create a safe environment with opportunities for our students to learn what they believe.

 

Interview with Anna Perera, author of Guantanamo Boy

CJ: Khalid’s experiences are so personally told, were you able to create that from research or did you interview former prisoners?  If so, were any as young as Khalid? Had any been held at GB?

PERERA: I didn’t talk to former prisoners of any age because I didn’t want to borrow or steal their stories. Their experiences belong to them, not me. What I did was immerse myself in the character of Khalid as a result of extensive research. Can you tell us a bit more about how and where you researched?

Imagining myself as an ordinary teenage Muslim boy living in a world where racism and anger were common after 9/11 was something that my growing up mixed race in Britain and having taught teenage boys from a wide ethnic background served as useful reminders of man’s possible inhumanity to man. At one stage I ran an educational unit for adolescent boys excluded from mainstream school; an experience which was a big help in understanding the teenage psyche because of the one on one time I was able to spend with them. I used every emotion, memory, thought, idea, detail and story that I could to make Khalid a believable character.

CJ: Having read your Author’s Note, I understand it was a charity benefit for an organization named Reprieve (http://www.reprieve.org.uk/) that motivated you to write this book/ Could you tell us something more about that night

PERERA: It was in the fall of 2006 when a good friend and I clapped and sang in the audience of the Globe Theatre in London for the Reprieve charity gig for Guantanamo detainees. You could feel the crowd’s heartfelt hopes winging their way into the crisp, night air, praying those prisoners would be freed and given back their lives. The injustice was palpable and when Clive Stafford – Smith, the director of Reprieve, said children were also being held there, I was so shocked and appalled that I instantly decided to write a teenage novel that would hold up a mirror to the insanity of this notorious prison.

CJ: Would you say you were on a mission?

PERERA: The desire to write this story felt more like a compulsion than a mission. It may sound strange but I honestly didn’t have any choice. The characters and events found me. Information appeared, as if by magic, on a daily basis. I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. Trusting to a greater power and an inner guidance helped and though I fretted endlessly about many things, I never doubted the book would be published.

CJ: Did you research torture in general or specific to Guantanamo? I have done a bit of research in preparation for this interview and know that torture has quite a long history in this sad little world of ours and is a far too present in interrogations around the world. I do not condone it and quite simply do not understand why it is an accepted form of interrogation?

PERERA: Yes, I researched torture in general and specifically with relation to Guantanamo. As you say, torture has been widely used throughout history. Nothing new there but what is interesting right now and the reason many people don’t understand why it is an accepted form of interrogation is due to the promotion of a new myth that harming a defenceless, captive prisoner is a useful way of obtaining information which will somehow benefit innocent people. This myth has been proved to be a rank lie and began with a theory known as “The Ticking Bomb,’ which goes something like this: A man in custody knows the location of a bomb which will go off at a set time causing massive loss of life. The use of torture in these circumstances is therefore necessary and a justifiable method of getting the information. This theory by Alan Dershowitz resulted in endless, intellectual debates about the morality of torture, the means, methods, time span, equipment that should be used etc and that is how the myth expanded. Let’s not forget these debates are spin offs from a fantasy scenario that has never taken place. A ticking-bomb fantasy that resulted in the legalising of water-boarding, sleep deprivation, prolonged isolation, extremes of hot and cold etc. When contrasted with the law of the heart: “No man has the right to harm another’, no intellectualising or justification is required — just a simple love for self and all humanity.

CJ: What has been the reaction to Guantanamo Boy in your country? In Europe?

PERERA: The book was critically acclaimed in the UK by all the major newspapers and journals and nominated for ten awards, including the Costa Children’s Award and Carnegie Medal. The European reviews have also been wonderful and so far the book has been translated into fifteen languages.

CJ: Thank you for being willing to share with us.

PERERA: Thank you and Ricki, James and Paul for the questions and wonderful Under The Radar site. What a great idea. Many thanks for your interest and thoughtful questions. They were a real pleasure to consider and answer.