This book finds its origins in a reading group the author conducted with prison inmates. The books covered are classics that don’t shy away from evoking isolation, the human struggle, pain, conflict, and captivity—The Heart of Darkness, Macbeth, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Lolita, to highlight a few. The result not only offers readers original takes on the moral issues raised by the books but a look at the inner lives of complex, difficult men. Salon will run an excerpt.
Brottman argues that even dark literary works can salve the desperation of a long prison sentence, and she captures the camaraderie created within the group. Each chapter focuses on the group’s reactions to a particular work, while she develops the inmates’ personal stories in the context of prison’s rigors. Her perspective on her subjects becomes disarming, although several have committed murder and others struggle with mental illness….Brottman’s own literary discussion is thoughtful, but the main appeal is the developing bond with her allegedly unsalvageable students, whose warmth and perceptiveness constantly surprise her.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Readers see more than how criminals respond to literary masterpieces. They also see how the author realigns her own college professor thinking about books she sees anew through the eyes of her tough-minded students. Great literature reassessed in a gritty world far removed from academe’s ivory towers.”
The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men’s Prison (9780062384331) by Mikita Brottman. $26.99 hardcover. 6/7/2016 on sale.