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You Don’t Know Me: The Incarcerated Women of York Prison Voice Their Truths

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In a new collection of essays, New York Times bestselling author Wally Lamb guides the writing of the inmates at York Correctional Institution into moments of honesty and revelation, presenting the truths discovered during incarceration. An adopted woman searching for her origins discovers she was born in prison. A bank robber reminisces about her first theft in kindergarte In a new collection of essays, New York Times bestselling author Wally Lamb guides the writing of the inmates at York Correctional Institution into moments of honesty and revelation, presenting the truths discovered during incarceration. An adopted woman searching for her origins discovers she was born in prison. A bank robber reminisces about her first theft in kindergarten. A prisoner serving a life sentence examines the nature of time. A young woman dreams of escape not from prison but from addiction and will sadly fail at both. These are just a few of the stories found in You Don’t Know Me: The Incarcerated Women of York Prison Voice Their Truths. For more than twenty years, New York Times bestselling novelist Wally Lamb has led a writing workshop for the women at the York Correctional Institution, Connecticut’s only prison for women. In You Don't Know Me, their autobiographical essays challenge our assumptions about the incarcerated and the criminal justice system. The fifteen stories presented here offer an honest look at a group of women who write to confront and transcend their histories and their lives in prison, gaining valuable insight along the way. Alongside the women’s writing is Lamb’s own chapter devoted to his reunion with several of his former students—ex-offenders who discuss their lives after prison and their reentry into a world dramatically changed by technology, altered family dynamics, and cultural shifts. In discussion with Lamb, the women movingly recount their reintegration into society, the challenges of finding work, the value of family and support systems, and the ways in which their writing enhanced their rehabilitation. Tackling timely themes and centered on the important issues of mass incarceration and draconian sentencing practices, You Don’t Know Me is a bracing call for rehabilitation and reform using stories that underline the humanity within us all.


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In a new collection of essays, New York Times bestselling author Wally Lamb guides the writing of the inmates at York Correctional Institution into moments of honesty and revelation, presenting the truths discovered during incarceration. An adopted woman searching for her origins discovers she was born in prison. A bank robber reminisces about her first theft in kindergarte In a new collection of essays, New York Times bestselling author Wally Lamb guides the writing of the inmates at York Correctional Institution into moments of honesty and revelation, presenting the truths discovered during incarceration. An adopted woman searching for her origins discovers she was born in prison. A bank robber reminisces about her first theft in kindergarten. A prisoner serving a life sentence examines the nature of time. A young woman dreams of escape not from prison but from addiction and will sadly fail at both. These are just a few of the stories found in You Don’t Know Me: The Incarcerated Women of York Prison Voice Their Truths. For more than twenty years, New York Times bestselling novelist Wally Lamb has led a writing workshop for the women at the York Correctional Institution, Connecticut’s only prison for women. In You Don't Know Me, their autobiographical essays challenge our assumptions about the incarcerated and the criminal justice system. The fifteen stories presented here offer an honest look at a group of women who write to confront and transcend their histories and their lives in prison, gaining valuable insight along the way. Alongside the women’s writing is Lamb’s own chapter devoted to his reunion with several of his former students—ex-offenders who discuss their lives after prison and their reentry into a world dramatically changed by technology, altered family dynamics, and cultural shifts. In discussion with Lamb, the women movingly recount their reintegration into society, the challenges of finding work, the value of family and support systems, and the ways in which their writing enhanced their rehabilitation. Tackling timely themes and centered on the important issues of mass incarceration and draconian sentencing practices, You Don’t Know Me is a bracing call for rehabilitation and reform using stories that underline the humanity within us all.

30 review for You Don’t Know Me: The Incarcerated Women of York Prison Voice Their Truths

  1. 5 out of 5

    Katie/Doing Dewey

    Summary: A tough, but well written and worthwhile read. This is an essay collection by women imprisoned at the York Correctional Institute, all of whom took writing classes with previously published author Wally Lamb. They write about their experiences in prison and their formative life experiences. Few talk about their crimes in detail, but many talk about abuse they experienced as children, so this is a difficult read. I'm surprised to see the collection only has 29 reviews on goodreads, becaus Summary: A tough, but well written and worthwhile read. This is an essay collection by women imprisoned at the York Correctional Institute, all of whom took writing classes with previously published author Wally Lamb. They write about their experiences in prison and their formative life experiences. Few talk about their crimes in detail, but many talk about abuse they experienced as children, so this is a difficult read. I'm surprised to see the collection only has 29 reviews on goodreads, because it is well worth reading. As with (Don't) Call Me Crazy, this essay collection presents an impressively varied set of perspectives on an experience most of us should probably learn more about. Perhaps because all of these essays were written in the same class and with the same editor, the collection was surprisingly even in quality. I would give most individual essays four stars. The writing was occasionally awkward, but it was also impressively expressive at times. Every essay in the collection was broken up into sections. I wonder if this reflects how they were originally written in Lamb's writing class. This structure worked well in some cases, with time jumps adding suspense or capturing critical life moments that showed us a lot about the author in a short piece. In other cases, the different sections made it harder to follow a narrative arc. Likewise, enough of the essays included a section that was an extended metaphor that I wondered if this had been an assignment. Again, sometimes this worked better than others. As a whole though, every essay was well written and worth reading. They just each had their own strengths and weaknesses. With as few reviews as this one has, I feel like it's a bit of a hidden gem and I definitely recommend it.This review was originally posted on Doing Dewey

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I knew going in that this book went well beyond some of the other collections presented by Mr. Lamb. These 15 short stories, although written by convicted felons each present a very ‘human ‘ perspective of life inside the walls of a high security prison. Not surprisingly none of the writers have anything positive to say about the officers, but that’s to be expected. To Mr Lamb’s credit the theme throughout the book remained on point: most of these women were neglected at an early age by their pa I knew going in that this book went well beyond some of the other collections presented by Mr. Lamb. These 15 short stories, although written by convicted felons each present a very ‘human ‘ perspective of life inside the walls of a high security prison. Not surprisingly none of the writers have anything positive to say about the officers, but that’s to be expected. To Mr Lamb’s credit the theme throughout the book remained on point: most of these women were neglected at an early age by their parents, lacked appropriate discipline in their lives and could have become productive citizens if circumstances were different. If you’re looking for a book with a happy ending don’t bother with this one, however if you want an honest straightforward perspective on the status of America’s criminal justice system, particularly relevant to females, then this is a must read!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    Really good. This collection of essays brought out the individual voices in a group that is usually overlooked and unseen. This entire book is another argument for much needed prison reform.

  4. 4 out of 5

    B. Goodwin

    Ever had someone make a wrong assumption about you? If so, you might just identify with the various women sharing their life experiences in You Don’t Know Me: The Incarcerated Women of York Prison Voice Their Truths. Shocked? We’re all human and nobody is perfect. This collection, coordinated and edited by Wally Lamb shows us the roles that background and coincidence sometimes play in incarceration. The essays share behaviors changed and lessons learned as well as the heartbreak of being away fr Ever had someone make a wrong assumption about you? If so, you might just identify with the various women sharing their life experiences in You Don’t Know Me: The Incarcerated Women of York Prison Voice Their Truths. Shocked? We’re all human and nobody is perfect. This collection, coordinated and edited by Wally Lamb shows us the roles that background and coincidence sometimes play in incarceration. The essays share behaviors changed and lessons learned as well as the heartbreak of being away from loved ones. From Julie Mangano Laumark’s “Julia and Me” comes the question “Why aren’t I a real kid? I look real. I feel real.” This is her first clue that she was adopted. Her mother gave birth to her in prison. She captures her young voice beautifully, and we’re immediately drawn into her story. In “My Prison Blog” Tracie Bernardi starts Blog Entry #19 with “I’m finally almost ready to leave this nightmare called prison, but I find myself feeling sad—not for me but for my friends….Yesterday a guard accused me of being bitter, and I guess he has something there. I am bitter about this toxic system where those in charge, intentionally or not, can act disrespectfully and abusively to the women in their custody…” Her honest, balanced assessment of prison life is voiced with a mixture of objectivity and resentment. She leaves readers understanding her. In a section of “Life After Prison” called “What Writing Gave Them” Robin Cullen says, “…when we stared reading our work aloud, sharing our stories with each other, that was when the lightbulb went on for me. I began to understand the therapeutic power of what we were doing. It’s healing to dig down deep and write about hidden truths—things you may never have talked about before—and then risk sharing those truths with others.” Several of these pieces have been published in The Sun and other venues. Instead of being a look at life behind bars, this is a look into the minds of those who are incarcerated. These stories are simultaneously gritty and inspiring. They make me grateful for all the traps I’ve avoided in my life. Strongly recommended for diverse audiences.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jeanni Cohagan

    I won this book thru Goodreads, and during a move I had boxed it up. During the pandemic, I found the box and was pleasantly surprised when I found this book. I read this book and was blown away by the feelings I had reading these women's essays and stories. In a time where the world is going to shit by viruses, Disease, racism, jail overcrowding, unemployment and war, it was the perfect time to read this book. Each story really put these women's raw feelings on paper. I had stereotyped people in I won this book thru Goodreads, and during a move I had boxed it up. During the pandemic, I found the box and was pleasantly surprised when I found this book. I read this book and was blown away by the feelings I had reading these women's essays and stories. In a time where the world is going to shit by viruses, Disease, racism, jail overcrowding, unemployment and war, it was the perfect time to read this book. Each story really put these women's raw feelings on paper. I had stereotyped people in jail and never really thought about what they could have done or what they are dealing with in prison. My views changed after reading this book. Everyone has a story, everyone has a past. I walked away after reading this book with a new mindset .

  6. 4 out of 5

    Katie Kelly

    So powerful and amazing that Wally Lamb was able to find a platform for these women to express themselves.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mandypax

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Willmert

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michelle R

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gina

  11. 4 out of 5

    Victoria M

  12. 5 out of 5

    ANGELA M

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  14. 4 out of 5

    Debra J

  15. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Cheresnick

  16. 4 out of 5

    Corey Wignall-Holowaty

  17. 5 out of 5

    Becca

  18. 5 out of 5

    Loryn Anderson

  19. 5 out of 5

    M Gearin

  20. 5 out of 5

    Deb

  21. 5 out of 5

    Justin Martin

  22. 4 out of 5

    SBD

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Marie

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kelly-ann

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sharonj54321aol.Com

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cornelia De wolf

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katie Mattson

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Hall

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