Pages for Prisoners – Avi Steinberg, Prison Librarian

March 30, 2011

I happened to tune in to a radio interview a while ago that captured my attention in mere moments. The interviewee, Avi Steinberg, was speaking of his experience as a prison librarian and his subsequent memoir, Running the Books – The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian.  In the few minutes I heard him speak I knew this book was one I’d be adding to the Must Read list.

Following his graduation from Harvard, and seeking to better his position as an obituary writer, Steinberg applied for a role of  Prison Librarian and Creative Writing Instructor at a Boston area penitentiary.  As a rookie on the job he was coached by a longer serving prison employee: “Don’t smile. This isn’t the Gap.”  Over his two and a half years in the job, he found his own way among the colourful characters and the workings of their relationships within the inmate community. Funny happens along side poignant.

The San Francisco Chronicle offers this description:   “Hilarious enough to make you want to read its lines to anyone who happens to be around, and profound enough to have you care deeply about many of the men and women whose crimes have brought them to Boston’s Suffolk County House of Correction. . . . There’s plenty of humor here, for sure, but Steinberg, in tender, understated prose, also brings out the inmates’ irrepressible humanity.”

To hear an interview with Avi Steinberg and read an excerpt from Running the Books click here.

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