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The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men's Prison
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HarperAudio 2016
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Description

A riveting account of the two years literary scholar Mikita Brottman spent reading literature with criminals in a maximum-security men's prison outside Baltimore, and what she learned from them—Orange Is the New Black meets Reading Lolita in Tehran.

On sabbatical from teaching literature to undergraduates, and wanting to educate a different kind of student, Mikita Brottman starts a book club with a group of convicts from the Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland. She assigns them ten dark, challenging classics—including Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Shakespeare's Macbeth, Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Poe's story "The Black Cat," and Nabokov's Lolita—books that don't flinch from evoking the isolation of the human struggle, the pain of conflict, and the cost of transgression. Although Brottman is already familiar with these works, the convicts open them up in completely new ways. Their discussions may "only" be about literature, but for the prisoners, everything is at stake.

Gradually, the inmates open up about their lives and families, their disastrous choices, their guilt and loss. Brottman also discovers that life in prison, while monotonous, is never without incident. The book club members struggle with their assigned reading through solitary confinement; on lockdown; in between factory shifts; in the hospital; and in the middle of the chaos of blasting televisions, incessant chatter, and the constant banging of metal doors.

Though The Maximum Security Book Club never loses sight of the moral issues raised in the selected reading, it refuses to back away from the unexpected insights offered by the company of these complex, difficult men. It is a compelling, thoughtful analysis of literature—and prison life—like nothing you've ever read before.

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Format:
OverDrive MP3 Audiobook, OverDrive Listen
Edition:
Unabridged
Street Date:
06/07/2016
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780062566041
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Mikita Brottman. (2016). The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men's Prison. Unabridged HarperAudio.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Mikita Brottman. 2016. The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men's Prison. HarperAudio.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Mikita Brottman, The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men's Prison. HarperAudio, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Mikita Brottman. The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in a Men's Prison. Unabridged HarperAudio, 2016.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Updated:
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        Mikita Brottman, PhD, is an Oxford-educated scholar, author, and psychoanalyst. She has written seven previous books, including The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals, and is a professor of humanities at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and continues with her weekly reading group at Jessup Correctional Institution.

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edition
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title
The Maximum Security Book Club
fullDescription

A riveting account of the two years literary scholar Mikita Brottman spent reading literature with criminals in a maximum-security men's prison outside Baltimore, and what she learned from them—Orange Is the New Black meets Reading Lolita in Tehran.

On sabbatical from teaching literature to undergraduates, and wanting to educate a different kind of student, Mikita Brottman starts a book club with a group of convicts from the Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland. She assigns them ten dark, challenging classics—including Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Shakespeare's Macbeth, Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Poe's story "The Black Cat," and Nabokov's Lolita—books that don't flinch from evoking the isolation of the human struggle, the pain of conflict, and the cost of transgression. Although Brottman is already familiar with these works, the convicts open them up in completely new ways. Their discussions may "only" be about literature, but for the prisoners, everything is at stake.

Gradually, the inmates open up about their lives and families, their disastrous choices, their guilt and loss. Brottman also discovers that life in prison, while monotonous, is never without incident. The book club members struggle with their assigned reading through solitary confinement; on lockdown; in between factory shifts; in the hospital; and in the middle of the chaos of blasting televisions, incessant chatter, and the constant banging of metal doors.

Though The Maximum Security Book Club never loses sight of the moral issues raised in the selected reading, it refuses to back away from the unexpected insights offered by the company of these complex, difficult men. It is a compelling, thoughtful analysis of literature—and prison life—like nothing you've ever read before.

reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: AudioFile Magazine
      • content: Just a few years ago, English literature professor Brottman led a book discussion group at Baltimore's Jessup Correctional Institution. Narrator Beverley Crick recounts Brottman's observations of prison life, the reading group's members, correctional officers, and, especially, the discussions of nearly a dozen works taken up by the group. She clearly differentiates Brottman, who is British, as well as black and white men of various ages and personalities, and a few female guards. Brottman confronts her own blinkered assumptions about prisons, race, and the role of literature in life, adding another layer of insightful veracity. As a bonus, the book group's responses to such widely varying titles as MACBETH, Burroughs's JUNKIE, and Malcolm Braly's classic American prison novel, ON THE YARD, may inspire further exploration by the listener. F.M.R.G. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        March 7, 2016
        For the past three years, Brottman (The Great Grisby), a professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art, has maintained a book club in which the nine other participants are inmates at Maryland’s Jessup Correctional Institution. In this introspective piece, she recounts a two-year period during which her group (which necessarily has fluctuating membership) covered 10 books, including Heart of Darkness, Lolita, and Macbeth. A self-described “quiet, private, law-abiding type with no criminal record,” she assures readers that “I can’t help but feel a powerful allegiance to those whose lives haven’t worked out so well.” Unfortunately, her position comes across as one of naïveté and privilege; she challenges the men with books she finds dark and fascinating, and is surprised when they are bored or confused. She makes assumptions about prison inmates, only to have her expectations upended time and again. By the end, she confronts reality: “I was not turning them into readers. They were just men who attended the prison book club.” While Brottman has delivered an interesting look at the intersection of prison life and literature, her inability to perceive the flaws in her own perspective weakens the result. Agent: Betsy Lerner, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        May 1, 2016

        While on sabbatical from teaching, Brottman (literature, Maryland Inst. Coll. of Art; The Great Grisby) started a book club for nine inmates at Jessup Correctional Institution, MD, a maximum security prison for men. She assigned ten classics including Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, recording their comments about each work. Brottman doesn't make entirely clear what she hoped to pass on from the meetings. Was it to show teachers the no-nonsense approach that the inmates took toward these books which have been discussed in depth by scholars? In her afterword, the author talks about a situation that many people who have worked in prisons have experienced. She met a couple of the men who had been discharged and found that they were different people. While in prison and in her book club they were compliant. This was a way of surviving. But outside, they returned to their own personalities. Brottman concludes by writing, "On the inside, I'd loved those men. But on the outside, I'd lost them." Readers can judge for themselves. VERDICT Recommended for students and employees in the field of corrections and for instructors of literature who are open to new perspectives on the titles Brottman chose. [See Prepub Alert, 12/14/15.]--Frances O. Sandiford, formerly with Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        January 1, 2016

        Ranging from William Shakespeare's Macbeth to William Burroughs's Junkie, the ten morally arresting classics on the syllabus devised by literary scholar Brottman would fire the mind of any intellectually inclined undergraduate. But she read them with members of a book club she started with convicts at the Jessup Correctional Institute, a maximum security prison in Maryland.

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        May 1, 2016
        Compassionate account of running a literary reading group among convicts at Maryland's Jessup maximum security prison.Psychoanalyst and author Brottman (Humanistic Studies/Maryland Institute Coll. of Art; The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Literary, Royal, Philosophical, and Artistic Dog Lovers and Their Exceptional Animals, 2014, etc.) hypothesizes that her own hardscrabble British childhood left her able to relate to criminal outcasts. "I've long been preoccupied with the lives of people generally considered unworthy of sympathy," she writes. Beginning as a volunteer during her sabbatical, she's kept the reading group going for over three years, despite her concerns that "the compulsion that draws me to these men is less an allegiance than...a form of survivor's guilt." Brottman argues that even dark literary works can salve the desperation of a long prison sentence, and she captures the camaraderie created within the group. Each chapter focuses on the group's reactions to a particular work, while she develops the inmates' personal stories in the context of prison's rigors. Her perspective on her subjects becomes disarming, although several have committed murder and others struggle with mental illness. Brottman's literary selections tend to be bleak and difficult: she began with Heart of Darkness and "Bartleby, the Scrivener" and then moved on to transgressive work by Charles Bukowski and William Burroughs. "To them," she writes, "as to [Bukowski stand-in] Henry Chinaski, brutality was a fact of nature." The book group remains a sought-after activity. The author claims that almost "no one dropped out unless they were released or transferred," even as funding for such programs has diminished. Brottman's own literary discussion is thoughtful, but the main appeal is the developing bond with her allegedly unsalvageable students, whose warmth and perceptiveness constantly surprise her. As one observes regarding Poe's "The Black Cat," "they bury us alive without thinking twice about it." Will not appeal to hard-core law-and-order types, but others will find this a brave and empathetic story of how literature brings light into shadows.

        COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        May 1, 2016
        Developing a drug addiction and turning to burglary to feed the habit rarely prepares a man for serious literature. But such is the improbable preparation for literary study that Brottman repeatedly finds during the two years that she brings together nine male convicts in Maryland's Jessup Correctional Institution, so forging an unlikely circle of committed readers. Only in this setting would the violent death of Marlow's helmsman in Conrad's Heart of Darkness trigger an aging convict's recollection of how he once watched in helpless horror as a fellow prisoner was stabbed to death right before his eyes. And only here would the curious passivity of the title character of Melville's Bartleby, the Scrivener look like a self-imposed lockdown to a convicted armed robber. But readers see more than how criminals respond to literary masterpieces. They also see how the author realigns her own college-professor thinking about books she sees anew through the eyes of her tough-minded students. Great literature reassessed in a gritty world far removed from academe's ivory towers.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

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shortDescription

A riveting account of the two years literary scholar Mikita Brottman spent reading literature with criminals in a maximum-security men's prison outside Baltimore, and what she learned from them—Orange Is the New Black meets Reading Lolita in Tehran.

On sabbatical from teaching literature to undergraduates, and wanting to educate a different kind of student, Mikita Brottman starts a book club with a group of convicts from the Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland. She assigns them ten dark, challenging classics—including Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Shakespeare's Macbeth, Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Poe's story "The Black Cat," and Nabokov's Lolita—books that don't flinch from evoking the isolation of the human struggle, the pain of conflict, and the cost of transgression. Although Brottman is already familiar with these works, the convicts open them up in completely new ways. Their discussions may "only" be about literature, but for the...

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Reading Literature in a Men's Prison
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