Beyond Bars

word cloud

(created in wordclouds.com from The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton, excerpted in Longreads )

Daniel Fader had recently gained recognition when I saw him in a university auditorium in Maine in 1970.  The author of Hooked on Books told a story I’ve never forgotten.  He said he’d gone into prisons to bring books to the inmates.  He’d visit regularly, would create libraries, would talk to prisoners about their reading.

At one prison, there was a young man who couldn’t read well, by his own admission, but he’d heard his cellmate talking about a book, a book “about a whore,” and he wanted to read it.  Fader shared how he’d urged the inmate to reconsider his choice, telling him that it wasn’t an easy book to read— for anyone—that he might want to start with something a bit less challenging.  The man remained adamant:  It was The Scarlet Letter…or nothing.

Fader gave him a copy of the novel and expected, as he told us, defeat.  For a period of a couple months, he didn’t see the inmate when he’d visit.  Truthfully, he said, he’d almost forgotten about the entire exchange.  One day, the prisoner was there, in his cell, waiting for Fader.  He proffered the well-worn book, corners creased, cover softened, though the bars and in a soft voice said, “That woman, she weren’t no whore.”

Tears come to my eyes these many years later when I remember Fader’s story.  Already “hooked on books,” and enthralled by the power reading has had in my life, I read Hinton’s excerpt from The Sun Does Shine, and find, once again, inspiration.

5 thoughts on “Beyond Bars”

  1. Wow, love this story, thanks for introducing me to this book. These are the heartwarming moments when someone impacts so unexpectedly on a stranger’s life and makes all the difference! The new book sounds incredible too!

  2. That’s a really cool story. I love when people surprise us, especially around books. This is a powerful story about the benefits of sharing books with each other.

    1. So glad you read the article. It moved me to the point that I reserved it at the library. Bryan Stevenson, the one who worked on Hinton’s release, is featured in one of the TED Talks I recommended.

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