SPECIAL EVENT: Oct. 19--Piper Kerman and Victoria Law in conversation about the importance of sending books to prisons
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.
Purchase copies of three works for $30 (40% off retail) to be sent to incarcerated readers nationwide: a zombie novel by Colson Whitehead, science fiction by Octavia Butler, and one work in Beacon Press's ReVisioning History series, that gives voice to Americans often left out of the picture.Many thanks to all of you who have participated in the September drive to benefit NYC Books Through Bars! We truly appreciate your generosity at this time, when those incarcerated face ever greater obstacles getting access to written material.
Zone One, Kindred, and the ReVisioning History seriesFollowing September's drive (Binti, The Ballad of Black Tom, and Can't Stop, Won't Stop), Freebird is offering again three books for $30: Zone One by Colson Whitehead, Kindred by Octavia Butler, and a selection from Beacon Press's ReVisioning History series: An African American and Latinx History of the United States; A Queer History of the United States; A Black Women's History of the United States; An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States; and A Disability History of the United States. [PLEASE NOTE: Each order placed will be one of these titles, which average retail for $19]
Kindred is Octavia Butler's classic work of speculative fiction that merged the slave narrative with time travel sci fi, brilliantly exploring the horrors of slavery as well as lingering racism, sexism, and white supremacy. Before he won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer, Colson Whitehead expertly reinvented the zombie genre in Zone One. Set against a pandemic-ravaged New York, Whitehead ponders how civilization can rebuild itself one person at a time--an eerie, but appropriate book ahead of Halloween. And the ReVisioning History series from Beacon Press celebrates the multiplicity of the American past, with perspectives from groups often written out of official histories: Indigenous, Latinx, African American, feminist, queer, and people with disabilities. Your purchase will help us get a selection of the titles in the series.
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.