On November 17th, I got to attend the Miami Book Fair for the first time. I didn’t get to spend nearly as much time exploring and attending talks as I would have liked, but I’m profiling a couple of the sessions I attended and books I came across during my brief day experiencing the fair. As I’ve been processing everything I was exposed to and thinking of how I wanted to share it, the first thing I knew I had to share, the thing I wanted everyone who didn’t experience it to know about, was Exchange for Change and their literary journal, Don’t Shake the Spoon.
Before hearing about them at the Miami Book Fair, I didn’t know Exchange for Change existed. If you’re similarly unaware, here’s the description of the program from their website:
The nonprofit Exchange for Change teaches writing in prisons and runs letter exchanges between incarcerated students and writers studying on the outside.
Through this program, many inmates are learning to express themselves and wield the power of the written word. I’m absolutely here for a program that brings the power and dignity of being able to express yourself and share your story to those who might have never known that power.
Don’t Shake the Spoon is a literary journal filled with poems, essays and stories produced in the courses taught by Exchange for Change. They are currently selling their first volume, which I immediately purchased after hearing several pieces performed by guest speakers and volunteers. Listening to the pieces read at the fair and reading through the pieces in the journal, I’m struck all over again at the immense amount of talent existing within people that many have gone their whole lives not realizing they have. I walked away wanting to do something to facilitate this exchange of words and world views, to cultivate a conversation about our justice system, and to just be a part of something that can change someone’s perception of their freedom even in imprisonment.
I’m not attempting to argue about the how’s and why’s of people ending up in prison. I realize the conversations around rehabilitation and prison reform are much broader and nuanced than a simple post can address, and the answers much more complicated than the questions make them seem. What I am attempting to do is to shed a little light on what I think is an amazing literary journal, and an amazing endeavor undertaken by Exchange for Change.
If you’re interested in own voices, then I suggest you give this journal a try. If you’re in the Miami Area and are interested in seeing the students perform their original works at one of the upcoming graduations, or you want to get involved with Exchange for Change, please visit their website.
Stay tuned to find out how one session with National Book Award Non-Fiction Finalists piqued my interest in a topic that usually leaves me with extreme fatigue.
Your Turn: What wonderful book have you recently stumbled upon? Share it in the comments!