I did it! I finally put a book together – of the women’s writings from my class! Which you will never read. Due to TCCC’s rules, I’m not allowed to distribute any writing that the women give me while incarcerated outside of the Del Valle jail. I understand that TCCC has its reasons, but I’ve still been frustrated with this in the past. Because the women cycle through my class so quickly, most of the contributors to the book will never see it. At some point, however, you just gotta do it – even if it’s not the picture perfect dream you had in your head. You have to work with the reality of the situation to make something beautiful. Otherwise you’re just complaining.
Making the book is important for the writers themselves, even if it’s only distributed inside the jail, so I told them to think of it as a message in a bottle, typed them all up, found a template, got my husband to design a cover, made copies, hole punched, bound, got Shirene’s help – we did it all! This morning was supposed to be the culmination of that. My class was going to read selections from the book for an audience of other incarcerated women and staff. We were all really excited.
Well, Building 12 was on lockdown this morning. Who’s in Building 12? My class… and the audience. One woman from another building came, so we talked to her for a while while we waited to see if the situation would be resolved in time. It wasn’t.
The worst part of it all is that today was Shirene’s last day with us. She can’t come back again, so she’ll miss the grand finale of her ten week stretch with us.
Welcome to jail, kids.
Tis an ill wind and all that, though. The officer who is in charge of us was genuinely delighted when I gave him a copy of the book. He had Shirene and me sign it and after he walked away, flipping through it, he came back.
“I know all of them!” he said.
“I know – it’s the women I’ve been working with over the past couple of years.”
He kept flipping, reading women’s names out loud and remembering them.
“You’ll get to see them in a new light,” I said. Since I have another week before the rescheduled reading, I’m going to make a ton more copies so that more officers and staff can have them too. Make those connections! Reaffirm our common humanity!