Monday, October 19 at 7 pm
Piper Kerman (Orange Is the New Black) and Victoria Law (NYC Books Through Bars co-founder) on the importance of sending books to prisons
Five months into Freebird's book drive for incarcerated readers (over 3,000 copies donated!), we wanted to pause and have a conversation on the invaluable work NYC Books Through Bars does, how these books are distributed to prisons nationwide, and what they mean to the recipients.
As part of Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy's "Books Beneath the Bridge" series, we are hosting a conversation between Victoria Law, the co-founder of NYC Books Through Bars, and Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black and a former incarcerated reader herself. Law and Kerman will discuss how prisons make access to literature exceptionally difficult, compounding institutional barriers to education. Often books are the sole instruments of learning for a prisoner. Books-to-prisons programs remain some of the few supply chains for making this happen. It's particularly critical now, as many of the incarcerated are in lockdown due to the pandemic.
As Albert Woodfox--held in solitary confinement for 40 years--put it after helping a fellow prisoner learn how to read: "The world was now open to him"
Piper Kerman is the author of Orange Is the New Black: My Year in Women's Prison, a memoir of her prison experiences, which was adapted into the critically acclaimed Netflix original comedy-drama series. Since leaving prison, Kerman has spoken widely about women in prison and about her own experiences there. She has taught nonfiction writing classes for incarcerated men and women in state prison systems for a number of years.
Victoria Law is a co-founder of Books Through Bars-NYC. She is also a mother, a freelance journalist covering issues of incarceration, gender and resistance, and the author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women and co-author of the newly-published Prison By Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reform.
ABOUT BOOKS BENEATH THE BRIDGE
In this moment where social justice is at the fore of our collective consciousness, it is vital more than ever to listen and learn from one another. This year’s Books Beneath the Bridge series will feature presenters reflecting on current events and centering marginalized voices, through the lens of their lived experience as well as their communities’.
ABOUT BOOKS THROUGH BARS
Two (and sometimes three) times a week, Books Through Bars volunteers meet at our space in Brooklyn to match requests people in prison have sent us in the mail to the books on our shelves. We mail book packages to individuals rather than prison libraries. Our book collection is donated by members of the community. Because we manage to get by in donated space, with donated books, donated packing materials, and volunteer labor, our only expense is postage. To meet this much needed expense, we hold fundraisers and look for other opportunities for receiving funds.
Victor LaValle joined fellow novelist Mat Johnson for a conversation about H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, tackling beloved genres, and reinventing them for our times. This event was to help raise awareness for NYC Books Through Bars, a non-profit program that helps deliver books to the incarcerated.
In The Ballad of Black Tom (featured in this month's book drive for Books Through Bars), LaValle takes inspiration from the otherworldliness of "The Horror at Red Hook" while subverting Lovecraft's overt racism. In Pym, Johnson muses on Poe's unconventional 1838 seafaring novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, and veers into literary territories Poe himself would have been in awe of.
If you would like to read books by Victor LaValle and Mat Johnson, you can purchase copies here: https://bookshop.org/
Book Club at Freebird
Interested in hearing more about the Post-Apocalyptic Book Club, where it's never too late to join? Visit their Meetup group here for more info. They meet typically the third Thursday of every month at the store.