People imagine prison is like the movies. It’s not. Yes, it is humiliating, degrading, depressing and very hard, but it’s not like the movies. In the movies, prison is always very dark with ominous music playing in the background. Surly guards and inmates are lurking around, trying to hurt you or frame you. That’s the movies. In real prison, it’s not dark and there is no music, ominous or otherwise. People are mostly trying to do their time and get out. If they have a modicum of self-esteem left after being shredded through the system, they seek out educational opportunities and look for a decent job.
During my prison journey, I was always blessed to have a good job. My favorite was teaching GED. The best reward was seeing the faces of my students when they learned they had passed. I love teaching. I love learning. I love books and that was the most difficult part of prison for me. In prison, there is a policy that dictates how many books and magazines an inmate can own. Someone had decided the proper number was seven. Seven books and five magazines. How they came up with that, I’ll never know but it stunned me. That included a dictionary, a thesaurus and a bible. Three down and four to go.
I was going through cancer treatment and wanted some books on cancer as well as some inspirational books on how to survive. I could see right away this wasn’t going to be easy. If friends sent me books, I had to read them and then donate them to the library or mail them out for storage. That broke my heart. I’ve always been a voracious reader and treasured my books. Many years ago, the Duchess of Windsor uttered the famous line, “You can’t be too rich or too thin.” I disagree. I think you can’t have too many books.
One of the first things I did as a free woman was start my book collection again. I’m not proud. I tell friends I will happily accept their cast off books. They have blessed me with fiction, non-fiction, self-help and inspiration. I’ve rediscovered prized cookbooks in the resale stores. I have a growing collection of books on writing and, yes, a dictionary, thesaurus and a bible. It gives me unimaginable joy to see those shelves full of books.
Now I’ve found a new website for readers: http://www.goodreads.com. It is a book lover’s paradise. Goodreads claims to be “the largest social network for readers in the world.” You can recommend books, keep track of what you’re reading, form book clubs. They want to get people excited about reading, but they don’t have to work very hard with me. I’ve been excited about reading since my mother potty trained me by reading Shakespeare. Of course, when I went to the University of Texas, I majored in English.
And now, I’ve written a book that will be out in late summer. It’s called The Slumber Party from Hell, a true story of turning pain into power. It’s the story of my journey through prison. Not only did I live through an amazing story, I heard others that were horrific and inspiring. I will be sharing some of them as we continue on this blog together. Everyone has a story. What’s yours?