The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men’s Prison

Mikita Brottman. Harper, $26.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-238433-1
For the past three years, Brottman (The Great Grisby), a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, has maintained a book club in which the nine other participants are inmates at Maryland’s Jessup Correctional Institution. In this introspective piece, she recounts a two-year period during which her group (which necessarily has fluctuating membership) covered 10 books, including Heart of Darkness, Lolita, and Macbeth. A self-described “quiet, private, law-abiding type with no criminal record,” she assures readers that “I can’t help but feel a powerful allegiance to those whose lives haven’t worked out so well.” Unfortunately, her position comes across as one of naïveté and privilege; she challenges the men with books she finds dark and fascinating, and is surprised when they are bored or confused. She makes assumptions about prison inmates, only to have her expectations upended time and again. By the end, she confronts reality: “I was not turning them into readers. They were just men who attended the prison book club.” While Brottman has delivered an interesting look at the intersection of prison life and literature, her inability to perceive the flaws in her own perspective weakens the result. Agent: Betsy Lerner, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (June)
Reviewed on: 03/07/2016
Release date: 06/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-256604-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-5047-6597-8
MP3 CD - 978-1-5047-6598-5
Compact Disc - 978-1-5047-6599-2
Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-06-238435-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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