Exiled Voices: Portals of Discovery edited by Susan Nagelsen
More than two million persons are imprisoned in the United States, which has the highest rate of incarceration, per capita, in the world. A certain number of them are talented writers, as Susan Nagelsen discovered in the years she taught writing courses in a penitentiary. She became interested in the motivation of incarcerated men and women to express themselves in literary forms, and she recognized the level of accomplishment that many achieved. This remarkable book grew from her dedication.
From contributions Nagelsen solicited from some one hundred imprisoned writers across the breadth of the United States, the work of ten men and four women– writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama–is represented in Exiled Voices, Portals of Discovery. Here is no collective protest of wrongful conviction and imprisonment but thoughtful, sometimes startling, creations by fourteen gifted writers about remembered youth, the world of nature, missed opportunities, enforced tedium, and the violence that lurks within prison walls. They touch deep wellsprings and illuminate a world of loss.
Robert Johnson, an authority on criminal justice, prisons, and imprisonment provides an introduction to the book with “Hard Time,”a probing and disturbing overview of the conditions and effectiveness of incarceration in the United States today.
From her interviews with the inmate/writers, Susan Nagelsen has written insightful introductions to each of them, and she offers a series of reflections–interspersed among the selections from their works–about such issues as education, medical care, and security affecting inmates and their loved ones.
Award-winning photographer Lou Jones, author of Final Exposure: Portraits from Death Row, returned inside intimidating prison walls to photograph the fourteen imprisoned writers whose work is published in Exiled Voices, Portals of Discovery.
The revealing literary work of the prisoners, the thought-provoking essay by Robert Johnson, the sensitive observations by Susan Nagelsen, and the striking portraits of Lou Jones comprise a groundbreaking vision of a world obscured behind high walls.
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