Meet the Authors

Perry Edmond O’Brien

Perry Edmond O’Brien is a former Army medic who served in Afghanistan and received an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector. Following his discharge, Perry dedicated himself to helping other servicemen navigate the conscientious objector application process. Perry majored in political theory at Cornell University and worked as a labor organizer in New York City. After receiving his MFA in creative writing from New York University, Perry joined Beyond the Choir, a social change strategy and training group.

Click here to read a Q & A with Perry

Anne Sibley O’Brien

Anne Sibley O’Brien was introduced to nonviolent resistance as a student at Mount Holyoke College, where she protested the Vietnam War in the 1970s. Since then she has joined marches, rallies, and campaigns for different causes. She has illustrated many picture books, including Talking Walls and other titles by Margy Burns Knight, and received the 1997 National Education Association Author-Illustrator Human and Civil Rights Award. She wrote and illustrated The Legend of Hong Kil Dong, winner of the Aesop Prize and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. Anne is the co-founder of the I'm Your Neighbor Project, promoting the use of children’s literature featuring "new arrival" cultures and groups to engage the entire community in a discussion of commonalities and differences. Anne lives in Maine.

Click here to read a Q & A with Anne

Tharanga Yakupitiyage

Tharanga Yakupitiyage first got involved in social justice while attending Hampshire College where she studied international development. Since receiving a master's degree in public policy from American University, she has worked as a journalist reporting on domestic and international human rights issues. She lives in New York City.

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The Story Behind

In November of 2004, Perry O’Brien accomplished what most consider an impossible feat in the military: he was granted an honorable discharge as a conscientious objector. Three years into a four-year enlistment in Afghanistan, Perry began having questions. "When you see a three-year-old child blown up, it forces you to ask yourself, 'What would ever justify this?'" After long discussions with his unit’s chaplain and intensive study of philosophy and Eastern religion, Perry came to the conclusion that war had never, and would never, solve conflicts. At the age of 21, Perry was one of 31 servicemen granted conscientious objector status in 2004.

Upon his return to the U.S. Perry continued to campaign for peace. His mother, renowned children’s author Anne Sibley O’Brien, suggested that they combine her artistic ability with his knowledge of philosophy and history. Their collaboration resulted in the book for young readers, After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Nonviolent Resistance, which highlights thirteen activists and five movements who chose nonviolent resistance as the path to change.

Perry continued to promote nonviolent paths to change through his work as a labor organizer in New York City. He has been an active member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and was a founder of the #VetsVsHate movement. Perry received his MFA in creative writing from New York University and currently works with Beyond the Choir, a social change strategy and training group.

"The core of my activism," says Anne, "is the knowledge that across race, culture, class, and all kinds of differences, we all belong to each other."