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Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian

by Jill Grunenwald

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“A fascinating look into a world many of us never see, and a powerful story about one woman’s journey to find her own strength, with a clear message of the importance of books and information for all.” Booklist (American Library Association), starred review

Shortlisted for the 2020 Social Justice & Advocacy Book Award by In the Margins Book Awards.

In December 2008, twentysomething Jill Grunenwald graduated with her master’s degree in library science, ready to start living her dream of becoming a librarian. But the economy had a different idea. As the Great Recession reared its ugly head, jobs were scarce. After some searching, however, Jill was lucky enough to snag one of the few librarian gigs left in her home state of Ohio. The catch? The job was behind bars as the prison librarian at a men’s minimum-security prison. Talk about baptism by fire.

As an untested twentysomething woman, to say that the job was out of Jill’s comfort zone was an understatement. She was forced to adapt on the spot, speedily learning to take the metal detectors, hulking security guards, and colorful inmates in stride. Over the course of a little less than two years, Jill came to see past the bleak surroundings and the orange jumpsuits and recognize the humanity of the men stuck behind bars. They were just like every other library patron—persons who simply wanted to read, to be educated and entertained through the written word. By helping these inmates, Jill simultaneously began to recognize the humanity in everyone and to discover inner strength that she never knew she had.

At turns poignant and hilarious, Reading behind Bars is a perfect read for fans of Orange is the New Black and Shakespeare Saved My Life.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781510737082
Publisher: Skyhorse
Publication date: 07/02/2019
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 26,937
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Jill Grunenwald is the blogger behind The Year of the Phoenix, where she talks all things body image, back of the pack, and being your own hero. She is the creator and co-host of the Professional Book Nerds podcast and has been a contributor on NPR's On Point. Her writing has appeared on The Millions and and her first memoir, Running with a Police Escort, was published by Skyhorse in 2017. She lives and works in Cleveland, Ohio.
Jill Grunenwald is the healthy living blogger behind The Year of the Phoenix and host of the Running with a Police Escort podcast, which she launched in June 2015 thanks to the financial support of her Kickstarter backers. A 3x half-marathoner, Jill proudly represents the back of the pack at every race and was an Ambassador for the Cleveland Marathon series in 2015, 2016, and 2017. She has her BFA from Bowling Green State University and her MLIS from the University of Kentucky. Currently, she is employed as a staff librarian at OverDrive, the leading ebook and audiobook app for libraries and schools, where she is also the creator and co-host of the Professional Book Nerds podcast. She lives and works in Cleveland.

Table of Contents

Introduction ix

Part I The Voice of the Door-keeper 1

Chapter 1 Out of the Frying Pan 3

Chapter 2 And into the Fire 16

Chapter 3 In the Doghouse 39

Chapter 4 The Hole 60

Chapter 5 Weekend Reading 78

Chapter 6 Pomp and Circumstance 96

Chapter 7 Three Strikes, You're Out 115

Part II We're All Mad Here 135

Chapter 8 New Sheriff in Town 137

Chapter 9 Finder's Keepers 146

Chapter 10 Bat out of Hell 158

Chapter 11 Heartbreaker 176

Chapter 12 Because I Could Not Stop for Death 190

Chapter 13 Something Wicked This Way Comes 202

Chapter 14 Gangsta's Paradise 210

Chapter 15 Deck the Halls with Boughs of Folly 219

Part III The Same Little Corner of Sky 233

Chapter 16 Ghost in the Machine 235

Chapter 17 I, Too, Sing America 245

Chapter 18 Erin Go Bragh 255

Chapter 19 Last Dance with Mary Jane 265

Chapter 20 Them's the Breaks, Kid 275

Chapter 21 The Spider and the Fly 285

Chapter 22 Check Mate 294

Chapter 23 Taking the Matter into Your Own Hands 305

Chapter 24 Ink Art Serrated 319

Epilogue 334

Acknowledgments 341

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