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June 22, 2024
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The less known, the more fascinating–The documentary of black humor in American prisons

What do you associate with prison? Cold, evil, lonely, destroyed?

Long corridors, crowded canteens, dim bathrooms, small playground without greening

Prisoners who want to escape are planning to escape, and prisoners who can’t leave are ganging up and fighting with gangs

Of course, there are also prison guards, who either have no sense of existence and are only responsible for opening and locking the door. Either they regard themselves as the abuse of power of God, or they regard themselves as the violent maniac of slave overseers

What about adding “library” to the prison? Has your imagination changed?

It’s still bright there. There are prisoners who study hard to get out of prison and find a job, prisoners who read the code in order to show themselves the truth, prisoners who copy love stories and write love letters to their girlfriends, and prisoners who whisper to each other and use reading to cover

The contents of the book “Library in Prison” may be more interesting, rich and shocking than you can imagine. Because it was written by a real prison librarian – Avi! What’s more, it’s all true! The more unknown, the more fascinating the truth!

Jessica, who abandoned her wife and son in her early years, now often peeps at her son in the same prison; The pimp, Brother Sweet, has always been committed to writing autobiography, and the golden sentences are frequent; The murderer Chuni learned to cook with TV programs and dreamed of recording his own cooking programs after he was released from prison; The “fat cat”, weighing more than 270 kg, can only wear a bold blue T-shirt because he can’t find a suitable prison uniform, and seems to be the boss

This book can be called a “exhibition hall” of human nature. There is not too much persuasion, healing and sensationalism, nor is there a worthy mention of “great man” who saved prisoners, or the inspirational deeds of “revenge”. More importantly, it presents the true personality of prisoners: strange nicknames, various requests, wonderful taste in selecting books, and unique black humor; As well as the general character of mankind, the despair and hope when wandering between imprisonment and freedom, destruction and rebirth

To put it bluntly, Avi is actually “broadcasting” a prison “reality show”.

The author, Avi Steinberg, graduated from Harvard University. He once worked as a librarian in Boston Prison in the United States. Because of his special work experience, true and humorous content, and simple and powerful style of writing, his book Library in Prison has become a representative work of documentary black humor “prison literature”. Selected as the book of the year of the San Francisco Chronicle. And praised by the Associated Press, A.J. Jacobs, the author of “The Wonderful Kinship of Everything” and other well-known people.

The story also begins with Avi’s “imprisonment”.

Before Avi graduated from Harvard University, he had been living a smooth life and was regarded as the standard “children of others”. But after graduation, the good fortune suddenly stopped, and Avi became a loser who could not find a stable job and was not very pleasing

One day, Avi accidentally saw an unusual recruitment notice: “Boston, prison librarian, full-time, labor union treatment.” Curiosity drove Avi to come to this notorious prison for an interview. Because he was at the bottom of his life, he suddenly had a whim, and decided to start from a place that represents both destruction and hope, and regain his life value.

In fact, the library is a hub of the prison. Hundreds of prisoners come here to “deal with things”. Prison guards and other staff will also come to hang around and occasionally add to the chaos. The librarian is not so easy to do, and Avi becomes Bai Xiaosheng, who answers all kinds of wonderful questions from prisoners every day; It became a house of all things, accepting or rejecting various petitions from prisoners; Become a psychologist, listen to the cries and complaints of prisoners; As a prison guard, he often kneels on the ground like a prayer to check whether there are contraband under the bookshelf

But Avi also gained the trust of the prisoners. They called him “the little brother in charge of books”, “the chief steward”, “monkey brother”, “Harvard man”, “Jewish curly hair (although his hair is thick and straight)”. A prisoner with a poor life will even comfort the depressed Xiaowei, although it makes him feel more miserable.

Prisoners are like miserable sailors trapped in the ocean: there is water everywhere, not a drop of water to drink. Just as the prisoners have countless time, no nutrients, no seasons, no holidays, no time for reincarnation.

Avi accidentally discovered the prisoner’s secret communication tool “kite” – a small note. Due to the different time and area of the prisoners’ activities, the “kite” in the book has become the emotional link between the familiar prisoners and prisoners of both sexes. It is like a small floating wood in the ocean, which can make prisoners breathe for a while.

The library is like the post office, conveying all kinds of secrets and hopes every day. Even those messages that have not been sent out are equally strong. It seems that every prisoner can gain something here. But Avi was eager to know: did the salvation and change they craved finally come? For example, the murderer Chuni, who dreamed of recording a cooking program, died of shooting after being released from prison

There is a passage in the book that breaks the essence of prison: “This is the place of punishment, and also the place of refuge; the place where saints have lived, and the place where sinners have lived; it is the treasury, and it is also the sewer; it is a post station to the Utopia, and it is also a living tomb.” In fact, this is the microcosm of society. An extremely strong and highly concentrated miniature.

What is the essence of library? It is a bond, freedom and hope! It is a kite that can fly to your heart!

Some people may never walk into the library in their life, but luckily, the truth that “books are treasures” doesn’t need to be in prison to understand.


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