Over the past few years, Michigan Abolition and Prisoner Solidarity has been running a book club via its newsletter The Opening Statement. We select a text, individuals can write in for a free copy of that text, and participants are invited to write response essays that are published in the newsletter. MAPS would like to reconfigure the approach to the book club. We would also like to rethink the program to allow for more engagement and discussion around the selected texts. With this in mind, we are going to:

  • select two (rather than one) texts at a time. (These two texts will be shipped simultaneously when requested. This will allow for interested individuals to get access to books more rapidly.)
  • add a correspondence element to the book club to give more opportunity for discussion and engagement across walls. We are envisioning that this correspondence may go on for around six months and would begin with both texts listed below. The frequency of letters would be up to individuals involved in the correspondence. We are hoping this will allow for more sustained engagement with the readings and give readers more of an opportunity to respond to the readings.

Our current set of readings are:

  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz: A novel focusing on the experience of Oscar de Léon, a nerdy Dominican teenager growing up in Paterson, NJ, who is obsessed with science fiction and fantasy novels and the idea of falling in love.
  • Bodega Dreams by Erensto Quiñonez: A novel about Chino, a young man in Spanish Harlem, and his interactions with Willie Bodega, an ex-Young Lord who wants to defend and promote the Latinx community.

As you read, you might consider connections and distinctions between the ways these two novels think about coming of age, our relationships to our communities, migration, navigating urban space, homeland and race, who is a hero and why, masculinity and femininity, and the desire for change.

If you’re interested in participating:

  1. Email us at maps@riseup.net to get started
  2. Find the books and get reading! Most incarcerated participants have already written to request books and we’ll be focusing on these two books until July 2021.
  3. We will pair you with an incarcerated participant to correspond about the readings. If you know someone locked up who’d like to participate, include that in the email or encourage them to write to us at PO Box 4811 East Lansing, MI 48826

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