Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts

Literature As Reformation: The Changing Lives Through Literature Program

I just finished my first time running a Changing Lives Through Literature program this past week.  The program is consists of 8 weekly meetings with individuals on parole wherein we talk about assigned short stories or novels read.  Essentially, it's a reading club for people on parole.  It's purpose to help people on parole engage with ideas through reading and have the opportunity to accomplish something as part of their progress to full rehabilitation in society.  Depending on the elements of their parole, participants often volunteer to be in the program and in doing some, some may have time taken off their parole sentence.  


Prison Halls - Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8b/End_of_the_world_prison.jpg
It is a program that I found out about through a colleague and expressed interest in last year.  However, it was not my first encounter with the program.  In fact, I wrote this blog post for one CLTL group a few years ago on my love for the writings of Kate Chopin.  Earlier this year, I was contacted by an officer interested in starting up a new group in Salem and so I jumped at the chance.  I met with the officer and we planted to run this first group in March through April.  The logistics went according to plan and though, there is much to tweak, it certainly was appreciated by those who consistently attended and those who facilitated it.  

For the first few weeks, I was excited and a bit nervous about running this group.  I certainly brought plenty of experience to the group as a facilitator, having taught literature at colleges for the last six years, but I wasn't sure exactly how to approach facilitating the group.  I was less certain about how the group dynamics would be and less familiar with this informal setting.  Yet as the weeks progressed, I seemed to have found my foothold and determined how best to engage with the participants and guide the conversation.  

So what did we cover in this 8 week journey?  It was composed of short stories and one novel.  Some of the stories I was familiar with and others, I read for the first time.  


Session 1: “Greasy Lake” by T.C. Boyle

A pair of glasses on a book.  Image source: http://pixabay.com/p-83126/?no_redirect
This proved a strong opener.  Boyle's tale about kids returned from college thinking they are tough stuff and making a series of increasingly bad decisions clearly hit home for many of the participants and got them reasonably interested in the program when they might not have been otherwise.  


Session 2:  “To Build a Fire” by Jack London

Akin to "Greasy Lake," I like this story because it's about a series of bad decisions and the protagonist's decision to buck conventional wisdom and focus only on the outcome (potential riches by getting to the camp sooner).  It also had a good dialogue around understanding nature and humans and how we lose touch with the natural order of things.  It also was quite ironic that the night we discussed this story was the coldest day in March.  


Session 3:  “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich

Erdrich's tale about the effects of war on a pair of brothers also spoke well to the participants.  However, we were able to move the discussion deeper to talk about the ways in which the outside world of American culture clearly took its toll on the inside world of the reservation and how that manifested in Lyman's final decision to walk everywhere.  


Session 4:  “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce

If the first three stories were safe to some degree in that while deep, meaning could be easily deduced, these next three weeks, I went in for something a little strong in terms of message and intellectual challenge.  They grappled with this but it was here that we often found some participants really pushing themselves to newer depths.  Bierce's tale of life between the drop a body and the snapping of a neck as the body reaches the full length of the rope, is a challenging one.  Told out of sequence, the story follows Farquahar, a plantation owner who does not serve in the Civil War but attempts to disrupt the Union army by blowing up a bridge.  In doing so, he has placed his family in direct danger and can do nothing about it because he is to be captured and sent to his death.  Our discussion around the perception of the noble act (blowing up the bridge) with the right and more important act (protecting one's family) also hit home for some of the participants.  


Session 5:  “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut

Though we had some good discussion around this story, it still felt a bit of a flop in that there was some confusion about what was going on.  I also think that the message of the story is not necessary useful either and need to find a replacement for this one.  


Session 6:  “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” by Flannery O’Connor

I warned the participants ahead of time that this would be the craziest story we read and many of them found that to be exciting.  However, they did get into the story and most interestingly, many of them expressed knowing exactly what was going to happen in the story within the first few paragraphs.  This was an interesting tell from the group in that it strongly indicated that their propensity for reading into stories had reasonably improved.  


Session 7 & 8:  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

As one of my favorite short novels, I figured this could be a great book to end on.  It's short, it's fairly clear, but there's also lots of subtle elements about it.  We had a good conversation around the book and again, it was great to see them pick up on things that they might have missed entirely previous (e.g. the parallel between Candy's dog and Lennie).  

In the end, it was a valuable experience to me just as much as it was for the participants.  It's quite easy to disregard or devalue people have committed wrongs (and I don't negate that people should be accountable for their wrongdoings) and I see many ways in which we devalue and dehumanize imprisoned populations and create conditions that make it even more challenging for them to reintegrate back into society.  Programs such as this which help them build skills, find self-value, and engage in activities where they are valued as human beings and what they bring to a group is likely to go much farther in their success than the standard shaming and isolating manners that are out there. 



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Recommended Reading - 2011

Here is my most updated list of Recommended Readings. I’ve broken them down into general categories and listed them alphabetically by author’s last name.  Without a doubt, I’ve missed a few and I’m sure some are bound to raise an eyebrow.

LITERATURE

  • I'm Not Scared by Ammaniti, Niccolò
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Bradbury, Ray
  • A Clockwork Orange by Burgess, Anthony
  • The Awakening by Chopin, Kate
  • The Good Earth by Buck, Pearl S.
  • The Souls of Black Folk by DuBois, W.E.B.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas, Alexandre
  • The Three Musketeers by Dumas, Alexandre
  • Invisible Man by Ellison, Ralph
  • Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney
  • Bartleby and Benito Cereno by Melville, Herman
  • The Odyssey by Homer
  •  The Iliad by Homer
  • Brave New World by Huxley, Aldous
  • The Metamorphosis by Kafka, Franz
  • The Poisonwood Bible by Kingsolver, Barbara
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Lee, Harper
  • Mary Reilly by Martin, Valerie
  • Beloved by Morrison, Toni
  • Lolita by Nabokov, Vladimir
  • Animal Farm  by Orwell, George
  • 1984 by Orwell, George
  • The Bell Jar by Plath, Sylvia
  • Twelve Angry Men by Rose, Reginald
  • The Jungle by Sinclair, Upton
  • Frankenstein by Shelley, Mary
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Smith, Betty
  • Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck, John
  • Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Stevenson, Robert Louis
  • Dracula by Stoker, Bram
  • Pudd'nhead Wilson by Twain, Mark
  • The Color Purple by Walker, Alice

HISTORY

  • On Monsters: An Unnatural History of Our Worst Fears by Asma, Stephen T.
  • Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Diamond, Jared
  • Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Kinzer, Stephen
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by Loewen, James W.
  • A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present by Zinn, Howard

CULTURE, POPULAR CULTURE, AND POLITICS

  • Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Anderson, Chris
  • NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Bronson, Po
  • The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by Brooks, David
  • The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Chabris, Christopher
  • Popular Culture: An Introduction by Freccero, Carla
  • The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Carr, Nicholas G.
  • Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Ehrenreich, Barbara
  • Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us and How to Know When Not to Trust Them by Freedman, David H.
  • The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn't--and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger by Gardner, Dan
  • The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things by Glassner, Barry
  • Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism by Illouz, Eva
  • Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America's Most Important Idea by Lakoff, George
  • Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives by Lakoff, George
  • Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Happy and How They Can Change the World by McGonigal, Jane
  • Culture, Self, and Meaning by Munck, Victor C. de
  • Inventing Reality: The Politics of News Media by Parenti, Michael
  • Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World, The Project on Disney by Project on Disney
  • Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know--And Doesn't by Prothero, Stephen R
  • Reality Hunger: A Manifesto by Shields, David
  • Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Shirky, Clay
  • The Truth About Lies by Shea, Andy
  • Inventing Popular Culture: From Folklore to Globalization by Storey, John
  • Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Defined a Generation by Turner, Chris
  • Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are by Waal, Frans de

SOCIAL JUSTICE

  • The Coke Machine by Blanding, Michael
  • "They Take Our Jobs!": and 20 Other Myths about Immigration by Chomsky, Aviva
  • Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster by Davis, Mike
  • Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Ehrenreich, Barbara
  • This Land Is Their Land: Reports from a Divided Nation by Ehrenreich, Barbara
  • The Assault on Reason by Gore, Al
  • We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Gourevitch, Philip
  • There Is No Me Without You: One Woman's Odyssey to Rescue Africa's Children by Greene, Melissa Fay
  • Black Like Me by Griffin, John Howard
  • Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming by Hawken, Paul
  • Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World by Kielburger, Craig The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Klein, Naomi
  • Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools by Kozol, Jonathan
  •  The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America by Kozol, Jonathan
  • Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Kristof, Nicholas D.
  • We Are All the Same: A Story of a Boy's Courage and a Mother's Love by Wooten, James T.

FOOD/CONSUMERISM/ENVIRONMENT

  • No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process by Beavan, Colin The Vertical Farm by Despommier, Dickson
  • Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated Into What America Eats by Ettlinger, Steve
  • Eating Animals by Foer, Jonathan Safran
  • The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works--and How It's Transforming the American Economy by Fishman, Charles
  • Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America by Friedman, Thomas L.
  • Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything by Daniel Goleman
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Kingsolver, Barbara
  • The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and our Health—and a Vision for Change by Leonard, Annie
  • The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food by Masson, Jeffrey Moussaieff Green Metropolis: What the City Can Teach the Country About True Sustainability  by Owen, David
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Pollan, Michael
  • In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Pollan, Michael
  • The End of Food by Roberts, Paul
  • Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Shell, Ellen Ruppel
  • Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal by Schlosser, Eric
  • Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders by Scurlock, James D
  • $20 Per Gallon: How the Rising Cost of Gasoline Will Radically Change Our Lives by Steiner, Christopher
  • Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Wansink, Brian

GENDER/SEX/SEXUALITY

  • Woman: An Intimate Geography by Angier, Natalie
  • The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts
  • Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 by Chauncey, George
  • Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film by Clover, Carol J.
  • Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America by D'Emilio, John
  • Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving by Dodson, Betty
  • The Ethical Slut by Easton, Dossie
  • The Vagina Monologues  by Ensler, Eve
  • Transgender Warriors : Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman by Feinberg, Leslie
  • Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality by Fausto-Sterling, Anne Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray by Fisher, Helen
  • Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity by Gamson, Joshua
  • City of Eros: New York City, Prostitution, and the Commercialization of Sex, 1790-1920 by Gilfoyle, Timothy J.
  • The Survivor's Guide to Sex: How to Have an Empowered Sex Life After Child Sexual Abuse by Staci Haines
  • The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction by Maines, Rachel P.
  • How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States by Meyerowitz, Joanne J.
  • Symposium by Plato
  • Sex, Time, and Power: How Women's Sexuality Shaped Human Evolution  by Shlain, Leonard
  • Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Simmons, Rachel
  • Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women by Traister, Rebecca

GENRE AND MODERN FICTION

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Entire series) by Adams, Douglas
  • The Robot series by Isaac Asimov
  • The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
  • Ender's Game by Card, Orson Scott
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Dick, Philip K.
  • A Scanner Darkly by Dick, Philip K.
  • Crooked Little Vein by Ellis, Warren
  • Stone Butch Blues by Feinberg, Leslie
  • Neverwhere by Gaiman, Neil
  • From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain by Faust, Minister
  • The Last King of Scotland by Foden, Giles
  • The Maltese Falcon by Hammett, Dashiell
  • Double Indemnity by Cain, James M.
  • The Wayfarer Redemption series by Sara Douglass
  • The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten by Geillor, Harrison
  • The Outsiders by Hinton, S.E
  • A Widow for One Year by Irving, John
  • The Body by King, Stephen
  • It by King, Stephen
  • Just After Sunset by King, Stephen
  • The Stand by King, Stephen
  • Let the Right One in by Lindqvist, John Ajvide
  • What Dreams May Come by Matheson, Richard
  • Fight Club by Palahniuk, Chuck
  • Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Quinn, Daniel
  • Q & A by Swarup, Vikas
  • The Hobbit by Tolkien, J.R.R.
  • Player Piano by Vonnegut, Kurt

BOOKS ABOUT COMICS

  • Superhero: The Secret Origin of a Genre by Coogan, Peter
  • Power of Comics: History, Form and Culture by Duncan, Randy
  • Comics & Sequential Art by Eisner, Will
  • The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How It Changed America by Hajdu, David
  • Men Of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book by Jones, Gerard
  • 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style by Madden, Matt
  • Batman Unauthorized: Vigilantes, Jokers, and Heroes in Gotham City by O'Neil, Dennis
  • Comic Books As History: The Narrative Art of Jack Jackson, Art Spiegelman, and Harvey Pekar by Witek, Joseph
  • The Man from Krypton: A Closer Look at Superman by Yeffeth, Glenn

MANGA

  • Parasyte by Hitoshi Iwaaki
  • Barefoot Gen by Nakazawa, Keiji
  • Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo
  • Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba
  • A Drifting Life by Tatsumi, Yoshihiro
  • Buddha by Osamu Tezuka
  • Ode To Kirihito by Osamu Tezuka
  • With the Light... Vol. 1: Raising an Autistic Child by Tobe, Keiko

GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Bechdel, Alison
  • Powers by Brian Michael Bendis
  • Unwritten by Mike Carey
  • The Contract with God Trilogy by Eisner, Will
  • The Boys by Garth Ennis
  • Preacher by Garth Ennis
  • He Done Her Wrong by Gross, Milt
  • The Nightly News by Hickman, Jonathan
  • Transhuman by Hickman, Jonathan
  • Sandman by Neil Gaiman
  • The Cartoon History of the Universe/World by Larry Gonick
  • Homer’s The Odyssey by Hinds, Gareth
  • Shakespeare's King Lear by Gareth Hind
  • The Broadcast by Hobbs, Eric
  • The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Jacobson, Sid
  • Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
  • Invincible by Robert Kirkman
  • Still I Rise: A Cartoon History of African Americans by Jr., Roland Owen Laird
  • The Complete Essex County by Lemire, Jeff
  • Museum Vaults: Excerpts from the Journal of an Expert by Mathieu, Marc-Antoine
  • Asterios Polyp by Mazzucchelli, David
  • Making Comics by McCloud, Scott
  • Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by McCloud, Scott
  • Superman: Red Son by Millar, Mark
  • Batman: Year One by Miller, Frank
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Miller, Frank
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore
  • V for Vendetta by Moore, Alan
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore
  • Captain America: Truth by Morales, Robert
  • Remains by Niles, Steve
  • The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics by Normanton, Peter
  • Suspended In Language: Niels Bohr's Life, Discoveries, And The Century He Shaped by Ottaviani, Jim
  • Three Shadows by Pedrosa, Cyril
  • Renfield: A Tale of Madness by Reed, Gary
  • Lovecraft by Rodionoff, Hans
  • Earth X by Alex Ross & Jim Kreuger
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
  • The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
  • Rising Stars by J. Michael Straczynski
  • Disaster and Resistance: Political Comics by Tobocman, Seth
  • Understanding the Crash by Tobocman, Seth
  • Ex Machina by Brian K. Vaughan
  • Pride of Baghdad by Vaughan, Brian K.
  • Y: The Last Man  by Brian K. Vaughan
  • Irredeemable by Mark Waid
  • Kingdom Come by Waid, Mark
  • Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Graphic Novels by Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Giacomo Patri and Laurence Hyde ed. By George Walker
  • Fables by Bill Willingham
  • DMZ by Brian Woods
  • American Born Chinese by Yang, Gene Luen
     



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