New England College Press Releases Second Book
Exiled Voices: Portals of Discovery, the second offering of the New England College Press, will be released July 17, 2008. Edited by Susan Nagelsen, Professor of Special Education and Director of the Writing Program at New England College, the book is a selection of stories, poems, and dramatic work written by prisoners around the country. Exiled Voices: Portals of Discovery, the second offering of the New England College Press, will be released today, July 17, 2008. Edited by Susan Nagelsen, Professor of Special Education and Director of the Writing Program at New England College, the book is a selection of stories, poems, and dramatic work written by prisoners around the country. Exiled Voices features an essay by noted prison authority Robert Johnson, Professor of Justice, Law and Society at American University, and photographs by renowned photographer Lou Jones.
Nearly two years ago, Nagelsen began reviewing the original submissions of 100 inmates each of whom had previously received PEN Prison Program Writing awards for their work. Nagelsen selected 13 of the best pieces for inclusion in the book representing ten men and three women and including examples of fiction, creative non-fiction, drama, and poetry.
“We knew when we started this project that we would not do the book unless we found superior quality writing,” notes Nagelsen. “These stories are not personal in that they are not descriptions of the lives of incarcerated individuals. The book is about writing and issues. As literature, the stories are fascinating and good.”
Nagelsen traveled to six states and met with all but one of the writers in preparation for editing the book. “In reading the book, it becomes clear that these are human beings. It is important that we see them that way. They have talents and voices and they are incredible writers.”
Nagelsen has written an introduction for each of the authors and photographer Lou Jones captured images of ten. In the Afterword, Nagelsen offers a summary of the project and some insightful observations on the issues faced by the incarcerated today. “The Pew Report indicates that the U.S. has the highest number of incarcerated men and women in the world,” states Nagelsen. “Many are in for non-violent crimes related to drugs. But since there are no treatment programs for them, the occurrence of recidivism is extremely high. It also becomes a health issue when 1.5 million individuals are released back into the community with undiagnosed and untreated diseases such as HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, and tuberculosis. To realize that we are building prisons faster than we are building schools puts the problem into perspective.”
For Nagelsen, the project has been about raising awareness. “I hope that what my contribution will do is to open some eyes and to offer some insight into who these people are,” she states. “It has reminded me of how all-pervasive this problem is and how grateful prisoners are when they have an opportunity to talk to someone from the outside.”
Exiled Voices: Portals of Discovery is funded, in part, by the New Hampshire Bar Foundation, beneficiary of the Charles W. Dean Trust Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.