Sunday, June 28, 2015

Book Review: Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Dr. Laura Bates

Non-fiction. Memoir. I read this in March of 2015 because it was posted on one of the digital book databases my library uses, as part of "Big Library Read" (, and it sounded interesting, so why not. My husband loves the show Lockup and I often watch it with him (marathons on Fri. and Sat. night if you are interested). This was an incredible read, it really does show the power that literature and theater have to change peoples lives.

The essence of it is that Dr. Laura Bates spends time at an Indiana Federal Prison and introduces lessons on Shakespeare to a group of supermax prisoners who cannot leave their cells (solitary confinement). The process most profoundly affects the inmate Larry Newton, who eventually starts to write lessons with Dr. Bates and becomes a leader for the other inmates. It is Shakespeare so it is theater, it is meant to be a production and not just read, so they do finally start writing and having performances of their own Shakespeare inspired tales, translated for today's world and into something the prisoners can relate to their own lives, their own mistakes, their inner demons.

This was a marvelous work, and I am glad the "Big Library Read" chose it since otherwise I may never have seen or heard of the title. If you love Shakespeare or hate it, this book will give you reasons to consider the works in a whole new light: not bored teenagers wondering why their mean teacher made them read Romeo and Juliet but life changing contemplation by people who much of the world has given up on, who can really and truly inspire you too.

And so it goes...

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