We had a wonderful conversation at the women’s book club at Hazelton yesterday, prompted by Maxine Hong Kingston’s _The Woman Warrior_ . The discussion found its way into family, community, gender, hair, music, long-term sentencing, unthinking binaries or opposites, violence in prison, and the history of convict leasing and ongoing exploitative prison labor practices
A few of the women are really interested in reading both _Slavery by Another Name_ by Douglas Blackmon and _Worse than Slavery_ by David Oshinsky, so we will be bringing in a few copies of those next time we meet.
Kingston: “I learned to make my mind large as the universe is large so there is room for paradox.” There is paradox in trying to create liberating educational moments in a locked down space. But these women make it happen over & over.
We’ve been remiss about updating our blog, but rest assured APBP is going strong! We are nearing our 20,000th book mailed to people imprisoned in the Appalachian region, and we continue to facilitate two books inside a federal prison in WV.
The book clubs meet every other week in a women’s and men’s prison. Here are some of the books from the past couple years:
Octavia Butler, Kindred and Parable of the Sower
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
Julia Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent and In the Time of the Butterflies
Alex Kotlowicz, There Are No Children Here
Ernest Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed
James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues”
Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
Edwidge Danticat, Farming of the Bones
Fred Chappelle, I am One of You Forever
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman
Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy
Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders
Jhumpa Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth
August Wilson, Two Trains Running
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
Autobiography of Malcolm X
Lorraine Hansberry, Raisin in the Sun
(Be sure to check out our FB page, which tends to be more timely than our blog.)
On April 2-3, APBP welcomed students from James Madison Univ. for a weekend of service learning. The students opened letters, selected books, prepared books to be mailed, and discussed the importance of educational access to those who are imprisoned. They had a chance to visit the beautiful Aull Center and experience a lively volunteer training day. We are incredibly grateful for their generous spirit and energy. Many thanks to APBP Board Member Angie Iafrate who coordinated this special event. Another first for APBP!
No training this Saturday, Feb. 13, cause it’s gonna be too cold for the ole heater! Stop in next Saturday, Feb. 20!
The women’s book club at Hazelton Correctional Center continues to meet every other week to discuss books, to write, and to figure out this world. Yesterday we discussed Fred Chappelle’s novel _I Am One of You Forever_, recommended by one of the members who is from North Carolina. It was a lively thoughtful discussion that touched on Southern humor and storytelling, on ghosts, dreams, and novelistic structure, on fathers and sons (and a couple great lines from a mom). Next up: Their Eyes Were Watching God.
From WVU’s Eberly Magazine: “A clarifying moment in Mike Buso’s life was in downtown Morgantown in the headquarters of a nonprofit while opening a misaddressed letter.
“The letter was to the Appalachian Prison Book Project, founded and directed by WVU English faculty, from an inmate.
“He misspelled three of the four words in our name: he misspelled Appalachian, he misspelled book and project,” Buso said. “The only thing he spelled right was prison. He had the wrong ZIP code and he had the wrong P.O. box number and yet somehow the letter still got to us.”
“The request was simple. While many of the people writing requests to the project ask for specific book titles or genres and offer up commentary, this man simply wanted books.
“There’s something about that basic earnest request for knowledge,” Buso said. “That to me is why I want to be a teacher, a professor. It’s why I’m here and APBP’s mission is one that I can get behind so easily.” Read more
Thanks to Jean Trounstine for her wonderful article on the need for higher education inside US prisons. A friend of APBP, Jean visited WVU and participated in our 2014 Symposium on Educational Justice. Her article provides a summary of educational efforts and makes clear the importance of Pell Grants for those who are imprisoned.
Jean also refers to the work of Jon Marc Taylor. For years I have been teaching an article by Jon, published in PEN’s anthology, Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing. Jon’s advocacy and research from inside prison was my introduction to the politics of higher education and imprisonment. Below is a note about Jon’s health.
“I am a friend of Jon Marc Taylor, PhD whose work is discussed in this article. Jon did path-breaking work on restoring Pell Grants. Very tragically, Jon had a severe stroke on Feb. 23, 2014 while in solitary on trumped up charges that he had contraband in his cell. As it turned it the “contraband” was butter belong to his cellie. He initially got some rehabilitation but not nearly what he could have received if he was not in prison. He can no longer write and has difficulty framing his thoughts. His lawyers are working on presenting his case (again) to the MO parole board in 2016. You can write to Jon and thank him for his work.
Jon Marc Taylor, PhD
503273, 3A102 Southeast Correctional Center
300 East Pedro Simmons Drive
Charleston, MO 63834