Reading Is My Window: Books and the Art of Reading in Women's Prisons

Reading Is My Window: Books and the Art of Reading in Women's Prisons

Reading Is My Window: Books and the Art of Reading in Women's Prisons

Reading Is My Window: Books and the Art of Reading in Women's Prisons

Synopsis

Drawing on extensive interviews with ninety-four women prisoners, Megan Sweeney examines how incarcerated women use available reading materials to come to terms with their pasts, negotiate their present experiences, and reach toward different futures.

Excerpt

Ordinary people don’t know how much books can
mean to someone who’s cooped up.—ANNE FRANK,
The Diary of a Young Girl

Books are a lifeline to people in here. We live life
vicariously through books.—CAESAR, State Correc
tional Institution at Muncy

THEY LULL US to sleep with romance! I’m telling you, four shelves of romance!” So says Solo, a fifty-six-year-old African American woman, in discussing the library in the prison where she is incarcerated. In Solo’s view, the library caters to imprisoned women’s “fantasy” of “being an entrepreneur or falling in love” while offering few resources to help women address the issues that bring them back to prison. “You pack all these people into these compounds and you don’t have the staff nor the time nor the resources to really deal with why are you an inmate?” she explains. Solo then sharply criticizes current reductions in educational opportunities for incarcerated women, concluding, “You cannot beat the sin out. You have to nurture the sin out.… You just want to beat me, beat me, beat me, punish me, punish me, punish me, and then expect me to come out of prison reformed!… At some point I’m just gonna become what you expect me to. I’m gonna become that monster.”

Solo’s critique of the diminished holdings in prison libraries, her insights about the dehumanizing nature of U.S. penal policy, and her conviction that reading and education enable prisoners to follow new paths speak to this book’s central concerns. Drawing on extensive individual interviews and group discussions that I conducted with ninety-four women imprisoned in North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Reading Is My Window explores how some women prisoners use the limited reading materials available to them in creative and important ways: to come to terms with their pasts, to negotiate their present . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.