Celebrating Banned Book Week

This week in North Philly Notes, for Banned Book Week, we blog about Prison Masculinities, edited by Don Sabo, Terry A. Kupers, and Willie London. A passage on prisoner rape prompted the entire state of Texas’ prison system to ban the book!

 

 From the Texas Civil Rights Project 2011 Human Rights Report:

Prison Masculinities, edited by Dr. Terry Kupers, M.D., Don Sabo, and Willie London, is banned because passages on pages 128-131 discuss prisoner rape. A prisoner describes how he was “humiliated telling anyone about” being sexually assaulted, and how he underwent “torture scenes” at the hands of fellow prisoners. TDCJ officials have testified they would even censor government documents that discuss prison rape. 

The book’s editor, Dr. Kupers, an expert in prison mental health care, included the passage as an “illustrat[ion of] the kind of prisoner orientation and education that is mandated by federal law – i.e. the Prison Rape Elimination Act signed into law by President [George W.] Bush in 2003.” According to Dr. Kupers, “the material in Prison Masculinities is designed to facilitate peaceful, smooth operations of the prisons and contribute to the rehabilitation of prisoners.”

About the book:

Prison Masculinities explores the frightening ways our prisons mirror the worst aspects of society-wide gender relations. It is part of the growing research on men and masculinities. The collection is unusual in that it combines contributions from activists, academics, and prisoners.

The opening section, which features an essay by Angela Davis, focuses on the historical roots of the prison system, cultural practices surrounding gender and punishment, and the current expansion of corrections into the “prison-industrial complex.”

prison masculinitiesThe next section examines the dominant or subservient roles that men play in prison and the connections between this hierarchy and male violence. Another section looks at the spectrum of intimate relationships behind bars, from rape to friendship, and another at physical and mental health.

The last section is about efforts to reform prisons and prison masculinities, including support groups for men. It features an essay about prospects for post-release success in the community written by a man who, after doing time in Soledad and San Quentin, went on to get a doctorate in counseling.

The contributions from prisoners include an essay on enforced celibacy by Mumia Abu-Jamal, as well as fiction and poetry on prison health policy, violence, and intimacy. The creative contributions were selected from the more than 200 submissions received from prisoners.

About the Editors:

Don Sabo, Professor of Social Sciences at D’Youville College in Buffalo, is author or editor of five books, most recently, with David Gordon, Men’s Health and Illness: Gender, Power, and the Body and, with Michael Messner, Sex, Violence, and Power in Sports: Rethinking Masculinity. Sabo has appeared on The Today Show, Oprah, and Donahue.

Terry A. Kupers, M.D., a psychiatrist, teaches at the Wright Institute in Berkeley. He is the author of four books, editor of a fifth. His latest books are Prison Madness: The Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About It and Revisioning Men’s Lives: Gender, Intimacy, and Power. Kupers has served as an expert witness in more than a dozen cases on conditions of confinement and mental health services.

Willie London, a published poet, is General Editor of the prison publication Elite Expressions. He is currently an inmate at Eastern Corrections. For nine years he was a prisoner at Attica.

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Philadelphia Writers Resist

This week in North Philly Notes, we highlight the contributions Temple University Press authors made to the recent Writers Resist event held in Philadelphia.

writers-resist

Photo by Lena Popkin

Nathaniel Popkin, co-organizer of the program, and forthcoming Temple University Press author, said this about the event:

We had dual goals for Philadelphia Writers Resist—the first is the need to stand up to protect First Amendment rights. Writers in every society have particular responsibility, and historically are the observers, documenters, dreamers…But there is a second reason for writers to stand up today: we are being directly threatened by the President-elect. (You can read some of these ideas in the op-ed we wrote for the Inquirer). The second reason for doing the event was to unite the various cells of the Philly literary community with a common purpose. My sense of Philly is that we have an incredibly rich literary community but it doesn’t really cohere. With this event, I felt that we joined voices around texts—we inhabited words together.

The event exactly hit my expectations: tone, tenor, energy, goodwill, and the words and voices that brought them to life seemed to carry extra poignance, extra meaning, when arranged next to each other. My sense in reading comments on Facebook and from what people told me after: people were struck by the humility and humanity of writers reading other people’s work. They were both inspired and frustrated that we’ve fighting these fights as long as we have, and they were reminded, with the extraordinary beauty and grace of the texts, that writers matter, that writing matters, that it gives shape to our greatest hopes as human beings.


One of the poems read at the event was “Learning to love America” by Shirley Geok-lim Lin, co-editor of Reading the Literatures of Asian America and Transnational Asian American Literature


Beth Kephart, author of Flowand Loveread the lyrics from Bruce Springsteen’s song, “Further On (Up the Road),” from his album, The Rising. She said she chose this song because, “it was a simple text, an invitation, a sliver of hope, a reminder, a refrain that we are not stuck in present time, not contained by present conditions, not condemned to paralysis. We are on a journey, and at this moment it is dark and miles are marked in blood and gold, but: there is a further on up the road, there is a path, a brighter path, to be forged.”


Daniel Biddle, co-author of Tasting Freedomread the Address of the Colored State Convention to the People of Pennsylvania, 10 February 1865. Octavius V. Catto et al.

biddlepodiumThey were barbers, teachers, carpenters, soldiers. Octavius Catto and 80 other Pennsylvanians of color braved a blizzard to get to Harrisburg in February 1865.  There they met for three days and nights in a church, and emerged with a message to the white world.

Black soldiers’ service and sacrifice were helping the Union win the war, Catto and his allies wrote. Let there be no further debate or delay in granting “our political enfranchisement, now and forever.”

The petition was a good fit for Writers Resist. Its authors, like their heirs in the modern Civil Rights Movement, challenged the racist order with a mix of courage and calculation; and they wrote well. Their final sentence made the same argument sculptor Branly Cadet has depicted in his statue of Catto, soon to be erected by City Hall: that the people’s power, wielded at the ballot box, can make injustice “disappear as the dews of morning melt before the morning sun.”

Tasting Freedom comp

“….We have never yet been secure in our persons, houses, papers and possessions, from unreasonable searches and seizures, as warranted to all persons under the State Constitution. When tried by accusation before our State Courts, it has been almost impossible to secure an impartial jury…and in no case can it be claimed that we are tried, and judgment rendered by our peers. All these disadvantages have contributed to rivet the shackles of prejudice and political slavery upon us, and throw us upon the mercy of those who know no mercy even up to this very hour of national calamity and moral revolution…

Slavery is now dead…  dead throughout the land — black men declared to be citizens of the United States, and marching by tens of thousands on field and flood against this monstrous rebellion… fighting, bleeding, dying in defense of our Constitution and the maintenance of our law.

Can it be possible that Pennsylvania will still suffer herself to be dishonored by refusing to acknowledge or to guarantee citizenship to those who have suffered so much, and still been foremost among her own sons in defending their country… against treason and rebellion?

Is it not our duty to ask
In the name of justice,
In the name of humanity,  

In the name of those whose bones whiten the battlefields of the South, that every bar to our political enfranchisement be now and forever removed?

Do this, and all other evils and outrages will disappear as the dews of morning melt before the morning sun.

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