The Power of Book Groups

Posted by Yvonne Barlow on Monday, April 23, 2012
No one expects prisoners to read novels, let alone discuss them. 
But the Prison Reading Groups have released a list of recent choices among prison book groups.
Women prisoners choose fairly predictable titles by authors such as Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love), Anita Shreve (Testimony), and Sarah Waters (Affinity).
But male prisoners selection of titles is a bit more surprising: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, and Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox.
Okay, Michael J. Fox's memoir of his life in Hollywood and his battle against alcohol and Parkinson's Disease is understandable. But Wuthering Heights and Rebecca! One man wrote of Rebecca, "I was right there with the girl all the way through."
What isn't there to love about book groups, the titles they bring before us and the reactions they elicit from all of us? The results from the Prison Reading Groups show that the desire to read and discuss what we read is universal.
One prisoner wrote:
"For one hour a month, I feel that my opinion is valid, that I am listened to, and that others care what I have to say. In the Book Group, everyone is given a voice, all have an equal say."
This feeling of having a voice and others listening is universal. Something to be celebrated by us all.
I will give the last word to a male prisoner.
"My daughter 'shadow reads' whatever book is being reviewed at Book Club. In a way, she's very much part of our group. She certainly feels closer to me when she 'shares' an evening with me as we read the books in parallel."
 


Tags: "prg" "prison reading groups" "book groups" "reading groups" "universal" 
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Yvonne Barlow Editor at Hookline Books - where book clubs and readers choose the novels that go to print.

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