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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

““The opposite of despair is not hope,” Anielewicz famously said. “It’s struggle.” That’s an apt description of the They Said No series, whose stated mission is to demonstrate “the importance of standing up for what you know is right.” Perhaps, if these books rally enough young activists to say no to fear and despair, future Politkovskayas and Anielewiczes will be able to lead long and happy lives.”

—The New York Times Book Review

“They Said No” is a historical fiction series for younger readers about protestors, activists, poets, revolutionaries, and other brave change-makers from around the world, and it emphasizes the importance of standing up for what you know is right. These are books based entirely on fact, and yet by fictionalizing a particular turning point in the person’s life, they humanize and make more accessible the events described. It’s not an approach you often see here in the US, and we hope it’ll find an avid readership. The series launches with two volumes, one on the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, Mordechai Anielewicz, and the other on the slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, each with a stunning portrait on the cover by illustrator François Roca. Subsequent volumes feature Aimé Césaire, Harvey Milk, George Sand, Victor Jara, Janusz Korczak, Rosa Luxemburg, and many others.

A searing portrait of the last days of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and its young leader Mordechai Anielewicz.

Set before and during the days of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Say No to Despair, part of the new They Said No series of histories, is a compelling and profound look at the final days of the life of Mordechai Anielewicz, leader of the Jewish Fighting Organization that led the insurrection against Nazi control in Poland during the Holocaust. Tracing the moments before and during the uprising up to Mordechai’s death in 1943, Hausfater delivers an uncompromising story of a revolutionary with a lesson all readers must take with them. Both disturbing and moving, thrilling and devastating, Anielewicz's story elucidates the immense power of resistance and the obligations we have to defend each other from violence and capture—no matter the costs. As Anielewicz himself puts it, “The opposite of despair is not hope, it’s struggle.” 

The deeply researched and partly imagined story of the fearless, internationally recognized journalist who was assassinated for believing that ‘words can save lives.’

Anna Politkovskaya: No To Fear tells the story of Anna Politkovskaya’s courageous life, narrated from the perspective of her longtime mentor and friend, the dissident writer Vassily Pachoutinsev. From their first meeting when she was a young literature student writing about poet Marina Tsvetaeva to her rise as an internationally recognized journalist, through Vassily we see Anna develop from junior reporter, to covering social issues after the fall of the Soviet Union, to becoming a fearless defender of human rights. Throughout the author brings the history to life by including key conversations that might have happened between them at pivotal moments in Politkovskaya’s life.

A scathing critic of the second Chechen war, Politkovskaya published most of her political work while working at the Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper at the forefront of the fight for free expression in Russia. For their outspokenness several members of its staff were murdered, presumably silenced by Russia's Vladimir Putin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Even after a poisoning attack and a mock execution, Politkovskaya persisted, adamant in her fight for her children's and grandchildren’s world, critiquing the situation in Chechnya and Putin until her assassination in 2006.

The narrator, Pachoutinsev, explains how her legacy lives on, inspiring those in pursuit of justice and the truth both in Russia and abroad. 

Written for young readers, here is the incredible story of Harvey Milk, one of the North America’s greatest fighters for gay rights.

Harvey Milk: No to Homophobia tells the story of the man who has been called “the most famous and most significant openly LGBT official ever elected in the United States.” The first openly gay elected official in the history of California, and one of the first-ever openly gay elected officials in the United States, Harvey Milk spent his career fighting against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In the 1970s, when Harvey was elected into office as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, so-called homosexual relations were against the law in the United States, and homophobia was considered the norm, particularly from outspoken conservatives and the religious right. In this hostile environment, Milk fearlessly advocated for the LGBT community and other marginalized groups, knowing full well the dangers of doing so. 

Just ten months after being elected, Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by a homophobic former colleague. The killer found sympathy from his jurors and received a light sentence, but Milk’s legacy lives on as one of America’s bravest fighters for gay rights.

 The only story for young readers of the legendary Chilean songwriter and activist who became a symbol of peace amidst the brutality of Augusto Pinochet's regime.

On September 11, 1973, in Santiago de Chile, Augusto Pinochet took power and installed a dictatorship in place of the democratic government of President Salvador Allende. That day Victor Jara, a young songwriter and activist, poet and playwright is arrested and imprisoned with hundreds of other people in the Santiago stadium because of his association with the socialist opposition. His hands, so crucial to playing music, are broken by one of Pinochet's soldiers. He is executed in the stadium days later, but his protest songs will continue to resound to this day, as does his defiance in singing, "Venceremos," We Will Overcome, in the stadium.
Pinochet will die at an advanced age without having answered for his crimes that were committed in an effort to crush dissent. But we celebrate the brave and defiant artists and activists like Victor Jara who help us to remember our humanity in the face of oppressive dictatorships.

The only YA book to tell the story of Aimé Césaire, the rise of Negritude, and the crusade for Black African and Caribbean independence from colonial rule.

Aimé Césaire was a poet and, later, a politician from the Caribbean island of Martinique, who spoke out against the sufferings and humiliations endured by the peoples of the former French colonies. In Aimé Césaire: No to Humiliation, we are with Césaire in 1930s Paris. The young Martinican poet and his friends Léopold Sédar Senghor and Léon Gontran Damas are launching the Negritude movement. Together, they celebrate their Black African roots, protesting French colonial rule and policies of assimilation. They invite West Indians, Senegalese, Guyanese, and others to reject the suffocating French colonial presence and to take pride in their accents, their cultures and their shared histories. Aimé's great book-length poem, Notebook on the Return to the Native Land, and other works, are a global inspiration. His speeches enliven the crowds back home in Martinique, and he rises in the political arena, defending Martinican identity. As a writer, as the Mayor of Fort-de-France and deputy of the French National Congress, Aimé Césaire continues to write and to fight against colonial power and for the dignity of Black peoples everywhere.

The only YA book to tell the story of George Sand and the courageous fight for women’s rights in the 19th century.

George Sand was the most popular novelist of the mid-19th century, and the pen name of Amandine Aurore Dupin. Sand wasn’t looking for scandal or subterfuge by using a pseudonym, but for freedom to live and to write, which she found by dressing as a man, writing under a man’s name, and loving who and how she chose. Her actions were an affront to the prejudices of the 19th century and a formidable lesson in courage.

Young Aurore grew up torn between two women and two worlds: the conventional and narrow bourgeoisie of her paternal grandmother, who raised her in the countryside, and the modest, Parisian environment of her whimsical mother. Refusing to become the stereotype of femininity, she dreams of another world, where she can breathe, uncorseted, away from the strictures of social expectation. She ignores the slander and rumors that follow her, and builds a free woman's life, deeply respected by friends and contemporaries like Victor Hugo, Honore de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert and many others. Using her fame as a writer, she fights for women’s and workers’ rights. She is the model of an emancipated woman.

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