Words No Bars Can Hold: Literacy Learning in Prison

Words No Bars Can Hold: Literacy Learning in Prison

by Deborah Appleman


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Incarcerated bodies, liberated minds: a narrative of literacy education behind bars.

Words No Bars Can Hold provides a rare glimpse into literacy learning under the most dehumanizing conditions. Deborah Appleman chronicles her work teaching college- level classes at a high- security prison for men, most of whom are serving life sentences. Through narrative, poetry, memoir, and fiction, the students in Appleman’s classes attempt to write themselves back into a society that has erased their lived histories.

The students’ work, through which they probe and develop their identities as readers and writers, illuminates the transformative power of literacy. Appleman argues for the importance of educating the incarcerated, and explores ways to interrupt the increasingly common journey from urban schools to our nation’s prisons. From the sobering endpoint of what scholars have called the “school to prison pipeline,” she draws insight from the narratives and experiences of those who have traveled it.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393713671
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 06/18/2019
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 1,200,240
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Deborah Appleman lives in Minnesota and is the Hollis L. Caswell Professor of Educational Studies and director of the summer writing program at Carleton College. Since 2007, she has taught language, literature, and creative writing courses at a high-security prison for men in the upper Midwest.

Table of Contents



Prelude: Education: Life or Death

1. A Tough Sell: Education and Incarceration

2. The Geography of Incarceration: The Glass Bubble in the Big House

3. Of Freire and Frost: Reading the World Behind Bars

4. "No Hugs for Thugs": Surveillance and Control

5. "I Write Myself Out of Prison": Rewriting the Self

6. Writing in the Dark: Profiles of Incarcerated Learners

7. "What If I Had Started to Write in High School?": Interrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline

8. "Songs from the Genius Child": Words No Bars Can Hold

Epilogue: Thoughts Beyond the Bars: The Dark and the Light


Selections of Writing by Incarcerated Writers


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