Literature As Salvation

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Why does literature endure? Why do we read it? What makes the words so compelling, we can’t put the book down?

Literature, and the reading of it, has saved many people in difficult situations. Literature can show people at their best. If you’re living through a difficult situation, say prison, this can be an important hope and message. Words can teach, illuminate and inspire us. Nelson Mandella cites the books he read in jail that gave him solace during his long incarceration. He devoured anything he could read on armed combat because he was trying to form a Liberation Army. As a young strategist, he read about boxing when he tried to defeat his opponents in the ring or books on chess when he was competing in chess tournaments. “I had no time to brood. I enjoyed reading and writing letters and that occupied my mind completely…” says Mandela.

Most prisons have a library and prisoners are encouraged to read books. According to most state statutes, prisoners are entitled to legal texts to research their own appeals. In addition to lawl books, almost all libraries have literature. Sometimes there are limits on content, like rape or gun construction, but overall there is much literature available to inmates. Some of the most popular in prisons are Stephen King and Harry Potter novels. Orange is the New Black and Gone Girl are some of the most popular novels in prisons. Longer novels are also popular, like Ayn Rands The Fountainhead. Biographies of different famous Americans are also sought-after in prison.

We should donate books, and keep books circulating, to The Prison Project. In this way, prisoners will continue to read. It can only help us as writers. I will continue to blog on Thursdays. http://www.eileenpkennedy.com.

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