Women’s Book Club at Hazelton

In October 2015, APBP began to facilitate a book club at the women’s unit in Hazelton Correctional Center, a federal prison in Bruceton Mills, WV. Every other week, we meet with fifteen women to discuss books, ideas, writing, and education.

The women have chosen the books that we have read so far. Here are the books and essays we have read as of January 2016, followed by some thoughts from participants.

Octavia Butler, Kindred

Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Julia Alverez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent  and In the Time of the Butterflies

Alex Kotlowitz, 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

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Toni Morrison’s Nobel Prize Speech

Mark Brazaitis, Julia & Rodrigo, An American Affair, Steal My Heart

Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed

James Baldwin, “Sonny’s Blues” and “Letter to my Nephew”

John Lennon’s Essay on Higher Education in Prison in the NYT

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah

Books in 2016

Edwidge Danticat, Farming of the Bones (Guest: Gwen Bergner)

Fred Chappelle, I am One of You Forever

Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


  • The book club at SFF Hazelton has been amazing. In an environment which does not place a value on higher thinking, the book club has been a lifeline to the many inmates who wish to remain intellectually engaged. Thank you!
  • My heart is overpouring with gratitude. In many ways this class and your time/effort have been an emotional and intellectual lifeline for me. Thank you for the stimulating books you’ve selected and the creative writing lessons you’ve brought for us. As inmates, this class has been a catalyst for friendships and conversations throughout the compound.
  • This is my first time here but I’m very excited. I was an English Education major before I came here. Thank you so much for your time and energy.
  • The New Jim Crow is my favorite book so far. Michelle Alexander, the author, enabled me to view our current penal system from a different perspective. She used fact to corroborate her claims. The New Jim Crow discussed scenarios regarding drug activity that were familiar to me.
  • The book club has been very fun. My favorite book has been The New Jim Crow, which has been very informative and eye-opening.
  • It has been wonderful!! My favorite book was
  • I like the writing workshops and the pace and/or time allotted for each reading. I enjoy the poetry and the short stories and the group discussions, insight, and input from the WVU volunteers! The book club has been enlightening and uplifting. In addition to the books, many of which I would have never chosen to read, or possibly been exposed to, and the group discussions, we are provided with current events of information relating to real life—which gives new meaning and perspective to our reads. Sadly, there isn’t a “high” standard or expectation of higher learning, at least in this institution, so our WVU book club is a breath of fresh air and whiff of knowledge for me. Thank you!
  • I have really enjoyed coming and I am so glad you allowed me to join the group. Thank you for taking the time to come here and spend the time with us that you do. I appreciate it and am very grateful.