Books Through Bars: Stories from the Prison Books Movement

Regular price $ 37.95

Edited by Moira Marquis and Dave "Mac" Marquis

University of Georgia Press

3/15/2024, paperback

SKU: 9780820365879


People organizing prison books programs have quietly gathered in basements, storage spaces, and the back rooms of secondhand bookstores for the last seventy years, reading letters written by incarcerated people and sending books in return. This diffuse and nonhierarchical movement operates on shoestring budgets with donated libraries in thirty states, and yet, there is little awareness of this long-standing social movement.

This book contains essays that explain the need for prison book programs and offer advice on how to establish or become involved with prison books programs, as well as shedding light on current challenges. While mass incarceration can make people feel powerless, this book details how ordinary people can organize and intervene in the largest imprisonment the world has ever known. The editors of this book hope it will inspire more people to realize that everyone has the power to treat each other differently and to foster a culture of care over cruelty.

Contributors include: Victoria Law, Michelle Dillon, Melissa Charenko, Beth Orlansky, Robert McDuff, Rebecca Ginsburg, James King, Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin, Sarah West, Lauren Braun-Strumfels, Annie Masaoka, Ellen Skirvin, Andy Chan, Jodi Lincoln, Patrick Kutcher, Daniel McGowan, Julie Schneyer, Julia Chin, Kwaneta Harris, Valerie Surrett, Rod Coronado, Nic Cassette, Zoe Lawrence, Megan Sweeney, and Paul Tardie


"Books through Bars powerfully conveys an important public statement about the importance of books and their value to maintaining one's full humanity through the life of the mind." — Doran Larson, author of Witness in the Era of Mass Incarceration

About the Editors:

Moira Marquis manages the Freewrite Project based in PEN America's Prison and Justice Writing program. She has worked with Asheville Prison Books, the Prison Books Collective in Carrboro, North Carolina, and cofounded Saxapahaw Prison Books. Shehas taught history and literature in secondary and higher education. Her academic writing has appeared in Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities, Science Fiction Studies, and Green Letters: Studies in Ecocriticism. She is the author of the PEN America report on carceral censorship, "Reading Between the Bars," and her popular writing can be found in LitHub, TruthOut and PEN America's Works of Justice series.

Dave "Mac" Marquis is a lifelong activist. He has worked with the Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal, Earth First!, the Asheville Global Report, and innumerable other organizations, small and large. He has volunteered at several prison books programs and helped establish Asheville Prison Books as well as Saxapahaw Prison Books. Mac is the book review editor for H-Labor, the executive assistant for the Labor and Working-Class History Association, and a former board member of the Southern Labor Studies Association. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of South Carolina and has a graphic history of the Brotherhood of Timber Workers in production with the Historic New Orleans Collection.