Reading is My Window: Books and the Art of Reading in Womens Prisons

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Sweeney begins with a clear and provoking introduction, followed by two chapters that delve into the history of reading in prisons and the material aspects of reading for prisoners. The crux of this book is the next three chapters, each based on a single genre of literature--literature of victimization, urban fiction, and self-help. Prior to the conclusion, another chapter centers on reflections of the experience of the reading group.

Reading is my window : books and the art of reading in women's prisons

There is a great textual and visual depth to this book, even though it has only pages of text. Sweeney grounds her study in feminist and literary theory. Perhaps the most important theorist for her study is Angela Davis, who calls for a particular type of prison reform in her work, Are Prisons Obsolete? This broad definition of reading informs much of her analysis of reading practices.

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In chapter 2, Sweeney develops the many uses of books in prisons. Aside from psychological awareness, women may seek to attain knowledge in a particular field, such as law or business, and copy important passages in a notebook for later use. Books also serve as a form of escapism and a way to structure time. Although the women have access to three television networks, many prefer reading and find watching television to be too passive. Chapter 1 summarizes the history of reading in prisons and its radical, disciplinary, and therapeutic uses. Bibliotherapists would allow prisoners to reflect and analyze literature in efforts to understand their lives and the world around them, yet the therapeutic use often co-mingled with the disciplinary.

Many left-wing works as well as urban fiction are often prohibited in the jail libraries. In essence, Sweeney is acting as a bibliotherapist, a term that is now somewhat of an anachronism. Her first thematic chapter on reading revolves around the group discussions of works that deal with abuse and victimization. Moreover, in focusing on individual growth and the process of becoming a survivor these narratives can occlude the need for social change.

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In addition, some feminist theorists do not always support women speaking out about suffering because they think that it promotes male hierarchy and is not politically useful. However, this genre served many purposes in the reading groups. Many of the women expressed a lack of resources for dealing with their emotional problems when in prison. The needs of prisoners to deal with issues that are found in these books becomes even more apparent when one understands that How can you even survive?

Reading is my window : books and the art of reading in women's prisons by Megan Sweeney

The women share powerful stories about their complex and diverse efforts to negotiate difficult relationships, exercise agency in restrictive circumstances, and find meaning and beauty in the midst of pain. Their shared emphases on abuse, poverty, addiction, and mental illness illuminate the pathways that lead many women to prison and suggest possibilities for addressing Submit Site Search Search. Programs Current Students.

How to Apply Recent Alumni. Prospective Students. Newsletters Alumni Resources Alumni Survey. Sponsor Student Careers Lasting Impressions. Rebecca Baron invited me to participate in a writing group, and she and Lisa Barbash helped me to rethink my books organization and title. More importantly, Rebecca helped me to feel at home in my work and in my home-away-from-home, and her thoughtful presence and friendship were highlights of my year. My undergraduate research partner at Harvard, Samantha Tejada, provided tremendously helpful assistance in many forms, from reading drafts to organizing data from hundreds of interviews.

Linda Meakes also deserves thanks for her careful transcriptions and for the compassionate interest that she took in the women whose words she was transcribing. Deborah Brandt, Rena. Fraden, and James Reisch read a draft of my manuscript and provided incisive and generous comments. Avery Gordon read a partial draft for my manuscript workshop and a complete draft after I made substantial revisions.

My debt to Avery is enormous.

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She not only offered crucial suggestions for reorganizing and reframing my chapters; she showed me how to be a better reader of my ethnographic material, enabling me to see the many forms of knowledge that lay before me. Avery helped me to find a language and a voice for communicating what I had learned from women prisoners, and this book is far better thanks to her involvement. Sian Hunter, my editor at UNC Press, offered substantive feed-back, encouragement, and patient guidance as my manuscript was transformed into a book. Stephanie Wenzel and Beth Lassiter also helped to make the process smooth.

While I was writing this book, family members and friends would periodically ask if I was still working on my paper. I hope that they will now understand why writing this paper took so much time. Throughout the process, Meghan Hvizdak, Laura Anderson, and Jill Petty have sustained me with their friendship and love. Mary Anderson has accompanied me on every step of the journey, sharing her insights about meaning-making, crafting ones story, and stepping onto the rickety bridge.

I am profoundly grateful for her wisdom and support.

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My mother-in-law, Maureen Carlin, has loved and encouraged me in ways too numerous to count. My mother, Sally Dimond Sweeney, died in , but it is she who first inspired my passions for reading and justice. Later in her life, my mom started annotating the title pages of books to remind herself that she had already read them and to let others know whether each book was worth reading.


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I can only hope that she would write loved it! My father, Clayton A.


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Sweeney, has offered me his steady hand, unconditional sup-port, and capacious love. His presence in my life gives me great joy, and he con-tinues to teach me more than hell ever know. Finally, over the last sixteen years, Michael Carlin has shown me what it means to craft ones life story in partner-ship with another.

nttsystem.xsrv.jp/libraries/10/ciwi-software-samsung.php He helped this book come to fruition in myriad ways from reading drafts of various chapters to making me scrumptious meals and its pages bear traces of his compassion, generosity, and integrity, his humor and zest for life Published on Dec View Download 1. I am thankful to Ellen Messer-Davidow for inspiring me to conduct fieldwork in a womens sweeney, Reading is My Window final pages, xiii xiv acknowledgments prison, and to Rich Doyle and Evan Watkins for introducing me to whole new realms of language and ideas.

Deborah Brandt, Rena sweeney, Reading is My Window final pages, xv xvi acknowledgments Fraden, and James Reisch read a draft of my manuscript and provided incisive and generous comments.