Novel describes innocent boy's Guantanamo ordeal

Fri Feb 20, 2009 9:12am EST
 
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A new novel tells the story of Khalid, a British teenager of Asian descent who travels to Pakistan for a family funeral only to end up in Guantanamo Bay, falsely accused of having links to Al Qaeda.

"Guantanamo Boy," published this month by Penguin imprint Puffin Books, is based on author Anna Perera's research into children who were taken to the U.S. military prison following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

And while the story of a 15-year-old from Rochdale, northern England, is fictional, it includes detailed accounts of Khalid's often shocking treatment in Pakistan, Afghanistan and finally at the notorious base located in Cuba.

A review in The Times daily called it "one of the grimmest books for teenagers to have been published for some time."

Perera argued that tough stories aimed at a younger audience were nothing new.

"You'd be surprised how many controversial issues are addressed in children's books," Perera said.

"Look at Melvin Burgess's 'Junk'. There is prostitution and underage sex presented to teenagers. They have this information on television and the Internet all the time," she told Reuters in a recent interview.

Perera considered toning down some scenes of torture in Guantanamo Boy, notably those involving the interrogation technique of "waterboarding," a form of simulated drowning. But she included it in the final draft.   Continued...