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Words No Bars Can Hold (Digital Audiobook)

Literacy Learning in Prison

By Deborah Appleman, Virginia Wolf (Narrator)

Publication Date: June 17, 2019

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (6/18/2019)


Incarcerated bodies, liberated minds: a narrative of literacy education behind bars.

Words No Bars Can Hold provides a rare glimpse into literacy learning under the most dehumanizing conditions. Deborah Appleman chronicles her work teaching college-level classes at a high-security prison for men, most of whom are serving life sentences. Through narrative, poetry, memoir, and fiction, the students in Appleman's classes attempt to write themselves back into a society that has erased their lived histories.

The students' work, through which they probe and develop their identities as readers and writers, illuminates the transformative power of literacy. Appleman argues for the importance of educating the incarcerated, and explores ways to interrupt the increasingly common journey from urban schools to our nation's prisons. From the sobering endpoint of what scholars have called the "school to prison pipeline," she draws insight from the narratives and experiences of those who have traveled it.

About the Author

Virginia Wolf is a Connecticut-based actress and radio personality. Aside from appearing on stage throughout the state, she hosts a weekly radio show on arts and entertainment ( and is founder of Herstory Theater, devoted to bringing to life stories of little-known women in history. She also delights in portraying housemaid Katy Leary for the Living History Tours at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford.