Two great stories about saving books and libraries from war

In the days and weeks after the initial US invasion of Iraq in April of 2003, the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad and archaeological sites across the country were ransacked. There were no US troops to be found protecting that global cultural heritage, contained within the buildings left to the chaos of "shock and awe." A failure of planning and imperial hubris were partly to blame—there was no lack of troops guarding the Ministry of Oil.

"Stuff happens," was then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's response to the looting, "Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things," Rumsfeld said. "They're also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that's what's going to happen here."

Historian Lawrence Rothfield designated these actions as The Rape of Mesopotamia. President Bush's mouthpiece had this to say,

"What you are seeing is a reaction to oppression," said Ari Fleischer on April 11, arguing that looting, however deplorable, is a way station to "liberty and freedom."

Two stories, one oriented toward children and the other anthologized as one of six stories in Amazon's Original Stories, "Black Stars series," have as themes the burning, looting, and protecting of libraries and books during a war.

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter. [Amazon]

"In the Spring of 2003, Alia Muhammad Baker was the city of Basra's real-life librarian. She was the keeper of cherished books, and her library was a haven for community gatherings. But with war imminent in Basra, Iraq, what could this lone woman do to save her precious books? With lyrical, spare text and beautiful acrylic illustrations, Jeanette Winter shows how well she understands her young audience. This true story of one librarian's remarkable bravery reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge knows no boundaries." You can listen to an audio version of the book here.

The Black Pages by Nnedi Okorafor [Amazon]

"In "The Black Pages," Issaka, the protagonist, returns home to Timbuktu, Mali, as an Al Qaeda raid engulfs the city and threatens everything he holds dear, including his own life. Though including a real-life terrorist organization may seem odd for a fantasy writer like Okorafor, she says the idea was inspired by the 2013 Battle of Timbuktu, when militants attacked and attempted to infiltrate the airport and were eventually defeated by Malian and French soldiers. The attackers also set fire to a library containing thousands of manuscripts, some of which dated back to the 13th century." Check out this interview on Shondaland with Nnedi Okorafor about The Black Pages.