As the semester draws to a close, I wanted to share some of the many lessons I’ve learned during my time at APBP:
- One book can change the course of a person’s life. Letter after letter describes the impact of books. Books are solace. Books are freedom to explore beyond the incarcerated space. Books bring joy and knowledge. Books make time move a little faster.
- Book donations can reveal a lot about a person’s life. As I unpacked boxes of donations, I often felt like I was looking at timelines of people’s lives. These books are when they studied for the LSAT; these are when they were about to become a parent; these are the countless hours spent awake, escaping into fantastical worlds.
- I often wondered what a donation of my life of books would look like. I can picture the volunteer cracking open one box with Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Dwayne Bett’s A Question of Freedom, Douglas Blackmon’s Slavery by Another Name, Assata Shakur’s and Malcolm X’s autobiographies. These books are when she discovered the histories hidden behind the ones she’d previously known.
- The little things matter. One wrong number, a stain on a page, a staple, a smudged name, or a torn corner can prevent the book from ever finding its home.
- People disappear too easily.
- The barriers between books and incarcerated people grow each day. Publisher only. Vendor Only. Only white envelopes only. (Yes, they used two “only”s.)
- When the barriers seem to multiply and frustrations mount, organizing bookshelves can help.
- People’s names matter. So many incarcerated people write of loneliness, of not having family or correspondence. They express gratitude for our use of their names, as we scribble little notes in the margins of our form letter.
- APBP is made up of amazing people: high school students, university students, and community members, people who want to be lawyers, people who were lawyers, people who remind us to breathe, people who want to enact social change, people who want to bring education into incarcerated spaces, people who have an eye for the details, people who dream big, people whose children, friends, and family have been incarcerated.
- Incarcerated letter writers are eager to learn how to defend themselves legally, how to create with their hands, how to build a sustainable life after, how to read, how to speak another language, and how to understand the people around them.
- In the people, there is hope.
Thank you APBP for continuing to teach me.
Maggie Montague, APBP Intern, Spring 2018