A Mother’s Day Digest Post

By BitcoDavid

For starters, I’m a Bozo. I misspelled Appetizer on my last post. I’d have edited it out, but once you publish a post, the title stays permanent. WordPress will repost the edited title as a new post. So, my Bozo moment lives on the Internet, frozen in eternity. Thanks Spellcheck – you’re off the Christmas list.

Marsha Graham – as mentioned in the last post – fell down and broke her shoulder. Any broken bone is intensely painful, and slow to heal, but a shoulder has to be one of the worst. If you want to send some well wishes, you can post them to DeafInPrison.com, and I will be sure she gets them. Alternatively, you can go here. She needs our support.


Why Digest Posts? News happens so fast, I just can’t keep up with it. I’ll set out to do a single story post, but by the time I’m ready to start writing, a half dozen stories have come in. So, without further ado…

4 from the NYT:

English: Seal of Texas House of Representatives

1) The Texas Legislature is wrestling with a bill that will address that state’s overwhelming number of wrongful convictions. The bill is called the Michael Morton Act. Named after a man who wrongfully spent over 20 years in a Texas prison, this act would force prosecutors to share all evidence garnered in investigation – including any evidence that would serve to prove innocence. This is a significant step for a state known to be suffering greatly under the burden of wrongful conviction. Here’s the link from the Times.

2) Gail Collins did an op-ed comparing government corruption and malfeasance in NY government, with other states. She finds that NY, with 32 separate corruption cases pending, isn’t doing as badly in the race to the bottom, as one might think. Apparently Illinois, Arizona and Georgia also top that list. New Jersey however, received the highest marks. Who’d a thunk it? New Jersey is the least corrupt state in the Union. Live and learn. Here’s that link.

New York Times
New York Times

3) In Brooklyn, NY, a supercop detective – now retired – is having 50 of his highest profile convictions investigated. Apparently, he relied on a crack-addicted snitch as his primary source. Now, the Brooklyn D.A.’s office is questioning the legitimacy of those convictions. From the Region section.

4) Amanda Knox teaches us that sexism, sexual bigotry and wrongful conviction don’t just occur here in the U.S. This interview spoke to me so much that I decided to copy it, in full. Something I hardly ever do. Enjoy.

Which authors do you most admire?

Vladimir Nabokov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Jonathan Safran Foer, David Foster
Wallace. . . . I like authors who experiment with narrative and delve
into very specific conditions within their characters in order to expose
universal truths about humanity. After reading, I like to feel that
I’ve experienced, learned, identified, been challenged and been provided
with insight.

When and where do you like to read?

I have two comfy chairs at home that I fall into when I’m reading, but I
probably read most when I’m in transit. I always carry a book with me
to read on the bus, and I tend to arrive everywhere early.

What was the best book you read while a student in Perugia, Italy?

Since I was in Italy for just a month as a student, the only book I was
able to finish before I was arrested was a new volume of modern Italian
poetry — the title of which I don’t remember. What I started to read and
most enjoyed while I was a student was an Italian edition of “Harry
Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” I was trying to teach myself Italian
outside of the classroom by referring to the familiar. That’s exactly
what I ended up doing when I first entered prison, this time with an
Italian version of “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” that I got from
the tiny prison library.

What was your reading life in prison?

A friend jokingly told me once that I was doing in prison what he wished
he could do in his own life — take time off from everything (school,
work, responsibility) to read and read and read. Reading started out for
me as a means of passing the time and learning the language. Reading
became a means of escape, and then a means of identifying and affirming
who I was in the face of the prison’s oppressive environment. I looked
to books to stimulate my mind and create a daily sense of purpose.

Was there a particular book that helped get you through the experience?

Different books helped me through different periods in different ways.
For instance, over time the prison grew more and more overpopulated, and
at a certain point, I was struggling to cope with a cellmate who became
increasingly confrontational and violent. “The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s
Guide to the Galaxy,” by Douglas Adams, was a humorous distraction from
the tension.

Other books, like Marilynne Robinson’s “Housekeeping,” were helpful
because they explored themes, like loneliness and alienation, that I was
having to learn to cope with myself.

Have you kept up with your Italian? Do you continue to read in the language?

I have a few close friends with whom I can practice speaking Italian,
but I mostly maintain fluency through reading. At the moment I’ve
returned to Boccaccio’s “Decameron,” which is satisfyingly challenging
and fun.

Are there any Italian writers you especially like?

Umberto Eco. He’s meticulous, thoughtful, innovative, tending toward the
epic while also humanizing. I love his lists — and I can always trust
him to help me increase my Italian vocabulary.

What’s the first book you read when you got back home?

“A Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole, which was recommended by my boyfriend, James.

What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Are there any you steer clear of?

I like fiction better than nonfiction, but beyond that it’s easier to
define the kinds of stories I steer clear of rather than those I’m drawn
to. For me, the qualifying factors of a good story — captivating
narrative, challenging, insightful perspective and credible, complicated
characters — can come in many forms. I avoid romances and most
thrillers, because thoughtfulness is often sacrificed for the sake of
sentimentality or “action.”

What were your favorite books as a child? Do you have a favorite character or hero from those books? 

As a kid I was drawn to fairy tales — Mother Goose, the Brothers Grimm,
Hans Christian Andersen. Also, fantasy series, like “Harry Potter” and
“Redwall.” Then again, I read almost everything my mom put in front of
me, and then I raided her bookshelves. I liked strong, adventurous
female characters (“Xena” was a favorite TV show) but also quiet,
introverted underdogs who learned to step up.

If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

“A Prayer for Owen Meany,” by John Irving. While a little more
idealistic than I personally feel capable of aspiring to, the philosophy
of this book strikes me as pertinent for a person in power. The hero is
physically small and yet larger-than-life. He makes a difference in the
lives of those around him and, ultimately, sacrifices his life for the
sake of a greater good. It’s a beautifully written, inspiring story.

What was the best thing about writing a book? 

Transforming my thoughts and memories into a tangible narrative. This
gave me as much a sense of relief as a sense of accomplishment. Writing
helped me process the experience. Also, I really enjoyed working with
and learning from my collaborator, Linda Kulman. I’ve adopted many of
her writing strategies. This was a raw, emotional process, and I felt
safe sharing the most painful memories with her.

The hardest thing about writing a book?

In reliving what I went through I was surprised to discover suppressed
feelings of intense anger and grief. They were feelings that I couldn’t
allow myself to experience while confronting adversities of
imprisonment, trial, conviction and dehumanizing helplessness. When I
sat down to write, though, I suddenly found myself in a position to
really reflect — be outraged and sad — much more so than I anticipated I
would be if I were to regain my freedom. I frequently had to stop
writing and take a walk or curl up into a ball for a while until the
panic and/or grief subsided and I could work again.

Would you like to write another book, and if so, what would you like to write about?

I would very much like to write another book and put to work what I’ve
learned. The pet project I have in mind is a novel inspired by and
exploring my Oma (grandmother) and Opa’s (grandfather’s) history —
certain drastic choices they made in the course of their lives together.
I look forward to sitting down and listening to my Oma to get a sense
of the time period she grew up in, and at the same time to have that
stimulate my imagination for a story that I see revolving thematically
around identity and sacrifice.

What do you plan to read next?

“How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone,” by Sasa Stanisic. Also, “Zorba
the Greek,” by Nikos Kazantzakis. I have so many books at home that I
can’t wait to read, and yet I couldn’t help but pull these down from my
friends’ and family’s bookshelves.

Here’s the link to the original.

3 from AlterNet:

CBS News
CBS News

1) For years, perhaps even decades, Ariel Castro kept women as captives – denying them clothing and forcing them to stay on all fours, wearing dog leashes. In this fascinating story, AlterNet asks why dozens of 911 calls and reports from neighbors went unheeded by police, while at the same time, SWAT teams are performing drug raids every day. A few marijuana plants used for medical purposes – a SWAT team and a prison term. Running a Texas Chainsaw Massacre style torture chamber and kidnapping women – we can’t be bothered.  Here’s the link on AlterNet.

2) In the School to Prison Pipeline department, we have a story about a Diabetic High School girl who was beaten and arrested by school cops – for falling asleep in class. AlterNet coverage, here.

3) Speaking of cops beating women, you gotta read this. In Baltimore, the cops were beating on – and arresting – a young man, when woman witness, whipped out her iPhone and started filming. The cops saw her, and went to work on her. They actually say, “You want to film something bitch? Film this!” They broke her phone, beat her up and arrested her. Here’s the link to this must read story.

Well, there you go. Happy Mother’s day and stay tuned.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and
obesity related illness.

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