A female professor, a super maximum security prisoner, and how Shakespeare saved them both
Shakespeare professor and prison volunteer Laura Bates thought she had seen it all. That is, until she decided to teach Shakespeare in a place the bard had never been before — supermax solitary confinement.
In this unwelcoming place, surrounded by inmates known as the worst of the worst, is Larry Newton. A convicted murderer with several escape attempts under his belt and a brilliantly agile mind on his shoulders, Larry was trying to break out of prison at the same time Laura was fighting to get her program started behind bars.
A testament to the power of literature, Shakespeare Saved My Life is a remarkable memoir. Fans of Orange is the New Black (Piper Kerman), A Place to Stand (Jimmy Baca) and I Couldn't Help Myself (Wally Lamb) will be be inspired by the story of the most unlikely friendship, one bonded by Shakespeare and lasting years—a friendship that would, in the end, save more than one life.
What readers are saying about Shakespeare Saved My Life
"I was tremendously moved by both the potential impact of Shakespeare and learning on human beings and the story of this one man."
"This is one of the most extraordinary books I've ever read."
"I have never read a book that touched me as much as this memoir."
"It is a challenging and remarkable story."
"I loved this book so much. It changed my life."
What reviewers are saying about Shakespeare Saved My Life
"You don't have to be a William Shakespeare fan, a prisoner, or a prison reformer to appreciate this uplifting book. "Shakespeare Saved My Life" also reveals many important truths ... about the meaning of empathy in our dealings with others"—Finger Lake Times
"Shakespeare Saved My Life touches on the search for meaning in life, the struggles that complicate the path to triumph and the salvation that can be found in literature's great works ... An inspiring account."—Shelf Awareness
"Opening the mind's prison proves enormously gratifying, not to mention effective ... brave, groundbreaking work"—Publishers Weekly
"An eye-opening study reiterating the perennial power of books, self-discipline, and the Bard of Avon."—Kirkus
"A powerful testament to how Shakespeare continues to speak to contemporary readers in all sorts of circumstances."—Booklist
Indiana State literature professor Bates details her remarkable work teaching Shakespeare to inmates, an experience that proved momentous for both teacher and students. Invoking lessons from previous volunteer work at prisons in her native Chicago, Bates transported Shakespeare into solitary-confinement lock-up (Secured Housing Unit, aka "supermax") at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, Indiana, and there met Larry Newton, her most engaged student and focus of this work. A convicted killer incarcerated since he was a juvenile often in solitary confinement or on death row Newton, despite his grade-school education, takes naturally to Shakespeare; starting with Richard II, he displays startling moments of empathy with the characters and latches on to many parallels of verisimilitude. Each week, toiling on their knees over homework assignments Bates passes through the "cuff port", forced to communicate through the bunker-like doors, chosen inmates in supermax discuss and dissect themes of revenge, criminality, honor, and love from Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and Othello, among others. Opening the mind's prison proves enormously gratifying, not to mention effective, for Bates as she offers the prisoners an alternative to frustrated violence. Her brave, groundbreaking work continues to be closely watched and modeled.