Chapter

“I <i>lived</i> that book!”: Reading behind Bars

Megan Sweeney

in Interrupted Life

Published by University of California Press

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780520252493
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520944565 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520252493.003.0035
“I lived that book!”: Reading behind Bars

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The draconian political climate in the United States has contributed to an evisceration of prison libraries and a substantial reduction in the educational and rehabilitative programs in prisons. Despite these bleak prospects for reading behind bars, the author of this chapter has discovered that some incarcerated women engage in highly resourceful reading practices with the limited materials available to them. As part of a larger study about cultures of reading in women's prisons, she has been conducting interviews and book discussions in a midwestern women's prison. In this chapter, she catalogues the reading habits of the incarcerated women she teaches and the roles of novel reading in their lives. She also provides snapshots of the varied and vital ways in which these women use reading as a means to re-story their lives: to learn about themselves, mediate their histories of pain and violence, gain knowledge and inspiration from other women, and narrate—and sometimes redirect—their own journeys.

Keywords: prison libraries; reading; incarcerated women; women’s prisons; interviews; book discussions; pain; violence

Chapter.  4010 words. 

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality

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