a “book group” book?

Book siting at Phoenix Books, Essex

Book siting at Phoenix Books, Essex

When my dear friend and neighbor suggested that our next book group selection be Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write, my response came at reflex speed.

“It’s not that kinda book,” I told her, thinking back to our recent book selections, The Round House: A Novel and Duct Tape Parenting, a self-help guide for raising resilient, resourceful kids.

But she pressed me, “no, the stories here lend themselves to great conversations about childhood, trauma, addiction, being mothers, the impacts of incarceration, social safety nets or the lack thereof, your work with jailed women, the power of writing, etc., etc.”

OK, I thought, “I’m cool with that” and grateful for my book group’s interest. (We’re an eclectic group of working women, friends of friends, from Underhill to Burlington to Shelburne.) 

But in the back of my mind lurked the thought that my friend was suggesting this mainly to support my latest project, as she is one of the most thoughtful people I know.

Then at a work event this week, a colleague approached me saying, “our book group of 15 has selected your book of women’s writings for its next read. We’re really excited about it.”

OK…Wow…Got it. Universal message received, MB!  Hear Me, See Me is a meaningful selection for book groups keen on lively, in-depth discussion (if you’re scouting for one).

Now I’m giving thought to discussion questions I want to pose to readers. Here’s a few I’ve come up with so far. Please share some of your own too (in the comments section). And generous thanks for reading!

  • What are some of the specific themes these incarcerated women write about that you can relate to in your own personal life?
  • Which stories or poems are extremely challenging for you to read, and why?
  • What specific excerpts or snippets from the women’s writings shed light on the fact that this country’s system of incarceration does not serve women at all? How are women’s needs different from the needs of incarcerated men?
  • One of the primary premises of the book and the writing inside VT program relates to the philosophy of Terry Tempest Williams – that “in a voiced community, we all flourish.” Does that quote have meaning for you? Are there people and communities you intersect with who have limited “voice?”

. . . and you?

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