A sober, intelligent study of the changing dynamics of a womens prison. The Connecticut Correctional Institute in Niantic, nicknamed ``The Farm'' by its inmates, has a long and honorable tradition. Its prisoners historically grew their own vegetables and cared for farm animals; the prison is located in a lovely rural spot. Rierden (Journalism/Fairfield Univ.) studied the inmates from 1992 to 1995, as the prison population began to shift from one-time offenders to serious repeat offenders, some with AIDS, many with serious drug problems. Rierden's narrative focuses on several older inmates, including Delia Robinson, a matronly woman with a violent streak triggered by alcohol. Robinson had spent long stretches in Niantic, the first when she killed another woman, the second after she killed her abusive son. It takes Robinson years to admit her alcoholism and her responsibility for her sons depraved, short life. Its to Rierdens credit that the reader understands why the other inmates revere the woman they call Miss D; her slow emergence from the prison system takes on heroic proportions. Other inmates are of more questionable character; unlike Delia, Bonnie Foreshaw vehemently denies she murdered a pregnant woman and blames race bias for a conviction in what she insists was an accidental shooting. Rierden reports without comment Bonnie's exculpatory account along with those of several eyewitnesses, who tell a far different story. Niantic is, as Rierden reports, the object of much interest, both as a model for the old-style system of reforming prisoners and as a relic in a new era showing much less interest in rehabilitation. Bucking that trend, largely through the efforts of longtime guards and a thoughtful warden, a drug rehabilitation center has been established, and the prison itself has been restored to much of its old glory as a farm for damaged people. An intelligent, absorbing look at prison reform and, more particularly, at the issue of women in prison.

Pub Date: June 1, 1997

ISBN: 1-55849-079-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1997

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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