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Words No Bars Can Hold: Literacy Learning in Prison

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  14 ratings  ·  7 reviews
Words No Bars Can Hold provides a rare glimpse into literacy learning under the most dehumanizing conditions. Deborah Appleman chronicles her work teaching college- level classes at a high- security prison for men, most of whom are serving life sentences. Through narrative, poetry, memoir, and fiction, the students in Appleman’s classes attempt to write themselves back into a ...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published June 18th 2019 by W. W. Norton Company
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Deborah
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting book written by a friend of mine about her experiences teaching creative writing to "lifers" in the Minnesota prison system. Lots of examples of prisoners work and also a lot of arguments for teaching liberal arts to prison inmates. Tricky business. She makes good arguments for teaching in prisons. I think anyone working or volunteering in the prison system should read it.
Jim Marshall
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What place should literacy claim in the lives of prisoners who have little if any chance of release? How can the teaching of critical reading and creative writing enhance the lived lives of those prisoners? What outcomes can be expected? How will we know that we are making a meaningful difference in their lives? Ten years ago Deborah Appleman went to a nearby high security prison for men in order to find answers to these questions, or rather, to fine tune the questions themselves. A Distinguishe ...more
Karin Foster
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I've seen Deborah Appleman present at conferences before and love her work. This book gives me greater appreciation of her, as well as other educators, who work within the prison system. Appleman is careful not to portray literacy as a panacea to violent crime, but it does play an important role. The last chapter discusses the role schools can play in creating systems of support for disengaged youth, but this requires a lot more support for schools than they presently get - counselors, etc. Inte ...more
Jean
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that can startle and provoke thoughts and beliefs toward the incarcerated. Most of us believe that those convicted of crimes are justly being punished for their deeds. We don’t, for the most part, think of them beyond that. We don’t credit them with individual lives with families and human feelings like the rest of us.
Deborah Appleman presents us with a window into the personal world and experiences of her incarcerated students. Her students share their personal stories through t
...more
Jeff Wilhelm
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, wow, wow! I highly recommend this book to all. I've recently read THE NEW JIM CROW, AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE, and THE MEN WE REAP. This book finally gave me hope. Deb Appleman is a possibilist – and her work is an exploration of possibility in the most oppressive of circumstances: she works to build literacy in a maximum security prison. She explores the transformative possibilities of literacy – and its limits, of how we can teach for possibility and transformation . . .

Favorite quote: "A per
...more
Mathew Murphy
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book offers a long-awaited commentary on education in prisons. I particularly appreciated the opportunity Appleman offered to her incarcerated students to express themselves. As one prisoner wrote, "I wish I had done this learning sooner. I've never had the opportunity to be introspective before, and that has been life-changing." I thank Ms. Appleman for bringing this important issue to our attention and giving her incarcerated students a voice. I hope many people read this book!
Kathleen A.
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Debra Appleman presents a well-documented, balanced and comprehensive picture of educating one of society’s most challenging populations. Her insights have application across learning environments as well. She skillfully brings her text to life by her inclusion of student work and life stories. A captivating, provocative and enlightening read!
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