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The Funhouse Mirror: Reflections on Prison
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The Funhouse Mirror: Reflections on Prison

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  25 ratings  ·  6 reviews
"Prisons are hard places to get into and harder yet to get out of," writes Robert Ellis Gordon as he takes you on a remarkable eight-year journey into the Washington State corrections system.

As a writing teacher, Gordon had the unique experience of gaining access to the darkest realms of Washington prisons while still being free to walk away from penitentiary confines at

Paperback, 132 pages
Published January 1st 2000 by Washington State University Press
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The author taught creative writing in prisons for eight years; in this book, he showcases a few inmates’ stories and his own reflections on prison life. Reading the inmates’ stories (especially TJ Granack’s, whose “Welcome To the Steel Hotel: Survival Tips For Beginners” is a wry, succinct capsule of prison’s unwritten rules), I can only shake my head the stupid, shortsighted policy that cuts educational funding in prison, turning kids with bad lives who’ve made bad choices into ignorant monster...more
Patrick O'Neil
I'm a bit torn here. I really liked and connected with the student/convict's writing: TJ Granack's "Welcome to the Steel Hotel: Survival Tips for Beginners," and Michael Collins' "Seventeen Fistfights Later" – are gritty and real and nothing short of brilliant. But I didn't connect with Robert Ellis Gordon's writing, which unfortunately for me, was the majority of the book. Yet the The Funhouse Mirror: Reflections on Prison wouldn't even exist if it hadn't been for Gordon. He taught the writing...more
This is pretty grim. It is composed of vignettes of prison life from the point of view of prisoners and from the main author who is an instructor of creative writing classes for maximum security prisoners. Really brings the humanity out of people who have done terrible things, but there is more to them than those acts. Also, when one hears the brutality they experienced beforehand it is not surprising how they turned out and that they did the same things to others. Also, the brutality of prisons...more
A great read, but I can't help but think that Ellis tends to put himself too much into the book. A lot of the best pieces are the inmates' stories or even when Ellis describes the behavior of his students, as well as the typical prison condition (physical and mental) he faces.

But he also wastes a lot of time. His own short story "Going Native" is kind of a bore and is also the longest piece in the book. But besides that, it is a fairly quick read about an interesting subject.
1/2 of the book is a sweet anthology of writings by prisoners on prison culture. the other half is by the self righteous author. blech.
Makes you think about the individuals in prison rather than just the prison population.
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