An honest review from someone that hadn't been introduced to prison life until reading the book.
I Hear Your Cry: Women in Prison REVIEW
A Journey of Imprisonment and Freedom
Veronica Shaffer’s I Hear Your Cry: Women in Prison is an absorbing and insightful look at imprisonment: physical and emotional. It is real-time journey spanning five years but a metaphysical passage that takes us deeper into the lives and hearts of the author and her students. Ms. Shaffer guides her readers through an outsider’s view of prison life inviting us to examine our stereotypes about the prisoners as well as about prison staff.
I was entering a new world that used a special language, a world that required patience for adapting to the ever-changing schedules, and a world that required my willingness to accept a loss of privacy when entering the facility. (p.17)
By offering yoga under the guise of a “wellness program,” Ms. Shaffer provides inmates with a new activity, one that they can take back to their cells, but also perhaps something they can practice after they return to society. The seemingly endless logistic and bureaucratic barriers to presenting the program mirror the self-imposed obstacles of all of the women in the book.
Her mother was in and out of prison for drugs, prostitution, and living on the streets from state to state. Tears trickled down the sides of Luvell’s face as she spoke. “I’m just like her; the very thing I promised my grandmother I wouldn’t be.” (p.89)
The shifts though time and space create a realistic, yet inspiration tone. Some “characters” and situations are hauntingly familiar while others are intriguing and foreign. Shaffer’s narrative summaries give structure and purpose to the mysterious worlds of prison life and yoga practice. It is also a classic tale of how a teacher can learn as much or more from her students as they can from her.
For some families who visited a loved one here, jail was perceived as a safe place, where someone they cared for could heal. In prison, their loved one could not bring harm to herself or others. For a period of time, families rest, knowing where their loved ones are. For awhile there is no tension or pressure. Arguments and police at the door are absent. (p.121)
This book is indeed about the cries we hear throughout our lives: those internal and external, those that we ignore or go unanswered by others or ourselves. But, most importantly, it is about the cries that are embraced, shared and, eventually, answered.
Pauline Stieff, M.A.
Writing Consultant and Owner, P.S. Publications