This series of letters is an imaginative response to the people who write to APBP. I’ve been volunteering with APBP for over four years, mainly preparing books to be mailed. I am now a professional writing and editing intern for APBP but still fulfill book requests in addition to my writing and research. I wish I could write a letter back to so many of the people who write to us requesting books, but time, page space, and an inability to articulate how honored I feel being trusted with these words thwart my wishful thinking.
A Window of Light in the Dark
“Your act of kindness gave me enlightenment, when I was trapped in darkness, and desired to overcome my then physical obstacles. . . . as I began to read, my acknowledgment of the physical state I was in, began to disappear.” — Hartsville, TN
Thank you so much for expressing your gratitude for the Appalachian Prison Book Project. I am sorry that access to literature and human contact beyond confinement are additional punishments to your physical and soulful imprisonment. I want to express my thanks to you. Thank you for your continued trust in our organization. Thank you for trusting me to read even a sliver of your story. I hope you keep requesting from APBP—we will be here as long as you are stuck there, inside those walls, to provide you with literature. I hope this Wicca book and dictionary allow you to escape from your conditions—even just for a moment. If you wish to seek more correspondence, I would be happy to include a pen pal request form in your next book order.
An Advocate on the Inside
“I am a tutor for the women who are working towards obtaining their GED. I am looking for a dictionary, as well as, a science book that covers anywhere from middle school to high school level science. Thank you for your time and donation.” — Henning, TN
You inspire me. I do not know you, but your efforts to increase access to education in prison moved me. I want you to know that I see you. The work you are doing as a GED tutor is valuable. I wish I could provide more than words as a form of recognition. I hope that this high school biology textbook and dictionary are helpful in your GED tutoring. If you need books that cover any other subject matter, please continue sending in book requests.
My Literary Twin Flame
“I am writing in hopes to receive my very own copy of amazing novels. I love the classics. Austen, Tolstoy, Hemingway, and Tolkien are my literary heroes. My most favorite books that I would wish to be able to read while being incarcerated are ‘Wuthering Heights’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, or even ‘The Great Gatsby’. Any one would be a blessing and hugely appreciated. I also have no financial means to have writing material for journal purposes or to keep notes while reading my Bible. I pray you are able to meet any of my requests . . .” — Tennessee
I am also an avid lover of classic fiction—you have good literary taste! Both Pride and Prejudice and The Great Gatsby are among my favorite titles. I hope you enjoy Austen’s satirical writing style as much as I do in Sense and Sensibility. I also included a composition book for writing purposes. Please feel free to keep requesting once you finish this novel and when you run out of pages! I hear you, I see you, and I wish you health, safety, and happiness.
By Jordan Pugh