"We are on Quarantine lockdown and no end in sight. The Books that you sent me months ago are still being passed around and enjoyed by all of us here...They help the time go by and keep your head out of here." (8/11/20)
Since we started this monthly book drive in June on behalf of NYC Books Through Bars, we never anticipated we would so quickly exceed 1,000 sets purchased for the program (over 3,000 books total)--going a very long way to fulfill the hundreds and hundreds of requests continually pouring in from prisoners nationwide. Books Through Bars and Freebird want to thank everyone for their ongoing donations, and especially at this time when incarcerated readers are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic in such an acute manner.
Even as we get past this current situation, the demand for books at prisons will always remain high. If you haven't heard about this month's selection, there's still time to purchase the set. And we will be doing a special virtual event on Wednesday, September 30, around one of the books featured (The Ballad of Black Tom). Sign up now!
Freebird/NYC Books Through Bars presents:
Victor LaValle joins fellow novelist Mat Johnson for a conversation about H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, tackling beloved genres, and reinventing them for our times
Wednesday, September 30, 6:30 pm EST
To register on Crowdcast (where you can also post questions in advance), go to:
As part of our ongoing efforts to raise awareness for NYC Books Through Bars, Freebird is hosting a virtual discussion on September 30 with Victor LaValle and Mat Johnson. LaValle's novel, The Ballad of Black Tom, is featured in our book drive this month (you can purchase it, and two other titles that will be donated to incarcerated readers nationwide). In The Ballad of Black Tom, 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. Johnson and LaValle will discuss not just their own efforts at breathing new life into classics, but also current trends of genre-bending in film (Jordan Peele) and tv (Lovecraft Country).
If you would like to read books by Victor LaValle and Mat Johnson, you can purchase copies here: https://bookshop.org/
For making a donation of The Ballad of Black Tom (along with the other books featured this month: Binti and Can't Stop, Won't Stop) to Books Through Bars, you still have time to purchase the September selections here!: http://www.freebirdbooks.com/shop.html
Purchase copies of three works for $30 (35% off retail) to be sent to incarcerated readers nationwide: a Hugo Award-winning novel by Nnedi Okorafor (who has also authored several Black Panther comics), a reinvention of the classic horror tale by Victor LaValle (acclaimed for subverting Lovecraft's racism), and Jeff Chang's standard-bearing study of hip-hop music and culture.
Following August's drive for illustrated works (March: Book One, They Called Us Enemy, and How to Draw Faces), Freebird is offering again three books for $30: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, and Can't Stop, Won't Stop by Jeff Chang. Speculative fiction--especially from non-traditional perspectives--are in high demand, as are books on pop culture.
Binti is the first in a trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor, focusing on the interstellar experiences of a gifted young woman sent far from her African homeland to study at an acclaimed university outside the galaxy. Okorafor won Hugo and Nebula awards for this ambitious Africanfuturist debut; so it's no surprise that she has been called upon by Marvel to write several comics in the Black Panther series. The Ballad of Black Tom takes its initial cues from the uncanny stylings of H.P. Lovecraft, but the comparisons end there. Like the current HBO series Lovecraft Country, Victor LaValle twists the genre into a dramatic backdrop exploring themes of racism and inequality. And Can't Stop, Won't Stop is Jeff Chang's unmatched study of hip-hop music and culture. As much a social history as an important chronicle of the times which gave birth to the movement, it was named one of Slate's best nonfiction books of the last quarter century.
Why it is important to donate to NYC Books Through Bars
While the NYC Books Through Bars program operating out of Freebird's basement is currently limiting in-person volunteering and drop offs due to COVID-19, book requests continue to pour in from prisons around the country: nearly 300 per week. In response to the challenges of accepting those donations during the pandemic, we have started a monthly program in which specific, in-demand titles can be purchased through Freebird at a discount. These books will be sent to incarcerated readers across the country.
To learn more about the important work NYC Books Through Bars does, go here.