Hummingbird in Underworld: Teaching in a Men's Prison, A Memoir

Hummingbird in Underworld: Teaching in a Men's Prison, A Memoir

by Deborah Tobola
Hummingbird in Underworld: Teaching in a Men's Prison, A Memoir

Hummingbird in Underworld: Teaching in a Men's Prison, A Memoir

by Deborah Tobola


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At the age of forty-five, Deborah Tobola returns to her birthplace, San Luis Obispo, to work in the very prison her father worked in when he was a student at Cal Poly. But she’s not wearing a uniform as he did; she’s there to teach creative writing and manage the prison’s arts program—a dream job.

As she creates a theatre program for prisoners, Tobola finds plenty of drama off the stage as well. Inside the razor wire she finds a world frozen in the ’50s, with no contact with the outside except by telephone; officers who think prisoners don’t deserve programs; bureaucrats who want to cut arts funding; and inmates who steal, or worse. But she loves engaging prisoners in the arts and helping them discover their voices: men like Opie, the gentleman robber; Razor, the roughneck who subscribes to The New Yorker; charismatic Green Eyes, who really has blue eyes; Doo Wop, a singer known for the desserts he creates from prison fare.

Alternating between tales of creating drama in prison and Tobola’s own story, Hummingbird in Underworld takes readers on an unforgettable literary journey—one that is frank, funny, and fascinating.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631525056
Publisher: She Writes Press
Publication date: 07/23/2019
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Deborah Tobola is a poet, playwright, and coauthor of a children’s book. Her work has earned four Pushcart Prize nominations, three Academy of American Poets awards, and a Children’s Choice Book Award. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the Universityof Arizona in 1990 and has worked as a journalist, legislative aide, and adjunct English faculty member. After teaching creative writing in California prisons, she became the Institution Artist Facilitator at the California Men’s Colony. Her students won writing awards, published their work, and appeared on local and national radio. Tobola retired at the end of 2008 to begin Poetic Justice Project, the country’s first theatre company for formerly incarcerated actors. She teaches creative writing and theatre at the California Men’s Colony and serves as artistic director of Poetic Justice Project. She likes reading, gardening, traveling and spending time with her family and friends.

Table of Contents

I The Joint 1

II Lighthouse 9

III The Blue Building 18

IV The Real World 28

V Dream Prison 38

VI 911 48

VII Milk and Cookies 58

VIII Lockdown 66

IX Blossom 76

X Blue Train 88

XI Chow Call 99

XII Where on Earth? 109

XIII Who Are You Talking To? 121

XIV It's All Good 132

XV The Border 141

XVI The Green Wall 152

XVII Yesterday's New Arrivals 160

XVIII Something's Rotten in Denmark 170

XIX Black and White 181

XX Red Door 188

Epilogue 198

Acknowledgments 201

About the Author 205

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