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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

by Megan Sweeney


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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.

Foregrounding the voices of African American women, Sweeney analyzes how prisoners read three popular genres: narratives of victimization, urban crime fiction, and self-help books. She outlines the history of reading and education in U.S. prisons, highlighting how the increasing dehumanization of prisoners has resulted in diminished prison libraries and restricted opportunities for reading. Although penal officials have sometimes endorsed reading as a means to control prisoners, Sweeney illuminates the resourceful ways in which prisoners educate and empower themselves through reading. Given the scarcity of counseling and education in prisons, women use books to make meaning from their experiences, to gain guidance and support, to experiment with new ways of being, and to maintain connections with the world.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807871003
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 02/15/2010
Edition description: 1
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Megan Sweeney is assistant professor of English and Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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From the Publisher

What Sweeney does best is to show how various kinds of stories enable women to tell more powerful stories about themselves. As women cherry-pick, rejecting one story line or plot for another, they construct identities with a wider scope, imagining themselves as actors and agents, rather than only guilty victimizers and victims. This book makes a significant contribution.—Rena Fraden, author of Imagining Medea: Rhodessa Jones and Theater for Incarcerated Women

Difficult, inspiring, and probably the most important book on reading you will have read in a long time. Meticulously and compassionately researched, it shows us what extraordinary things women prisoners do for themselves and for each other through reading. They helped Megan Sweeney write a book you will remember. A stunning achievement.—Avery Gordon, University of California, Santa Barbara

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