the prison book club-ann walmsley at north york public library

“If you expect the best of people, they will rise to the occasion.”

“The smell of prison is the absence of smell itself.”

“They wanted me to use their real names-they were so proud of their engagement with books.”

but she didn’t know that they would always feel that way, as some of them hadn’t yet told their families that they were in jail. the process of coming up with pseudonyms was also interesting. i look forward to how she does it, when i’m through my holds’ list.

as she talked about introducing journals for continuity, to aid in the process of getting to know prisoners and their thoughts on books through transfers and limited sessions, i got to thinking about writers and journals, and why people who report the news (supposedly with some mythical lack of “bias”) are called journalists….journal lists….so what does that make writers who keep lists of journals?

and inside/outside is one of the dichotomies that rules my fascinations and ruminations-on life and art. without any prompting, she described her book as being different from OITNB because she had tape recordings, and piper was only working from memory. she failed to acknowledge (perhaps because it was obvious), that there was that whole difference in subject position, as well as the freedom of mobility between the prison gates.

she was not allowed in the cafeteria, however, though she had heard stories of how the self-segregation of the prisoners was the most tense in there, and the book club worked to break those barriers, it fostered empathy between polarized groups.

the idea of outside book clubs reading in tandem with inside book clubs, in the hopes that when folks come out, they don’t have to hang with their old associates, they can find friendship with their book club friends, is really touching and truly integrative/preventative (from re-offense).

so is the idea of transferred inmates taking the lead to start a book club in their new prison-facilitating discussion and recruiting-transforming skills that they had acquired in crime to commit to the cause of healing through literacy. beaver creek is a low-security prison, that that meant a concentration both of university-educated inmates and lifers who had earned their place due to good behaviour-and those are good qualities for a book club.

but the best is the anecdote of an inmate who evaded capture for his crime for years by hiding at the toronto reference library, in the music and construction sections, and it served him well because he worked in construction when he was released.

this is truly a story of facing your fears and ends full circle with the reflection on what books do to bring you back to your own humanity. i’m glad i made the trek uptown tonight. i did leave at the q&a so that i could raid the cd stacks, and i was not disappointed there either. even though i had to make my scarf into a hobo sack to transport them all home, i’m appreciative today of my computer’s busted disc drive-because i haven’t been watching as many movies, i’ve replaced my super-consumption with music, and i’m giving thanks for liner notes and album art.

cafes lately: squirrel, jalgua, hula girl
libraries used: annette street, parkdale, north york central
watching: black/ish season one
listening to: big k.r.i.t.-live from the underground
lingots: 5294
raptors: 52-25 (#2 spot clinched with the palindrome record!)
holds: 41
home books: 16
years until my triple-quinceanera: 9
collaborators needed for the next phase of my superproject: 5


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