Shakespeare Saved My Life | Hot Take Review

Published: April 2 2013

Pages: 291

Format: Paperback (Library Copy)

Tags: Nonfiction, Memoir, Crime, Social Justice

| Synopsis from the Publisher |

Just as Larry Newton, one of the most notorious inmates at Indiana Federal Prison, was trying to break out of jail, Dr. Laura Bates was trying to break in. She had created the world’s first Shakespeare class in supermax – the solitary confinement unit.

Many people told Laura that maximum-security prisoners are “beyond rehabilitation.” But Laura wanted to find out for herself. She started with the prison’s most notorious inmate: Larry Newton. When he was 17 years old, Larry was indicted for murder and sentenced to life with no possibility of parole. When he met Laura, he had been in isolation for 10 years.

Larry had never heard of Shakespeare. But in the characters he read, he recognized himself.

In this profound illustration of the enduring lessons of Shakespeare through the ten-year relationship of Bates and Newton, an amazing testament to the power of literature emerges. But it’s not just the prisoners who are transformed. It is a starkly engaging tale, one that will be embraced by anyone who has ever been changed by a book.

Keywords to describe this book: intriguing, thoughtful, inspiring

~My Thoughts~

This was such an interesting read! I picked it up because it satisfies one of my reading challenge prompts (“read a book about prison”), but I easily became invested in it. Laura Bates is essentially sharing how she became involved in the prison education system, teaching Shakespeare to convicts and how she ends up becoming the first to teach in a maximum-security prison, where she becomes close to a convicted murderer there, who has been in prison since he was 17 and has no chance of parole. Essentially, through her teaching of Shakespeare, she, according to him, “saved his life,” by reforming him through learning about the Bard.

The book is full of actual conversations between them and how he becomes so taken with the Bard, connecting it to prison and the criminal life and he eventually goes on to write up introductions to workbooks of each of Shakespeare’s plays for other prisoners to use in their own study.

This book is fascinating, and it touches on topics that I don’t usually think about, such as should convicts be given access to free education? Can education “reform” convicts? Bates does an excellent job of making the case that education has a strong impact on reforming convicted criminals and the book shows how extensively she’s worked to provide this service to inmates. I learned so much from this book and it made me think even after I finished. If you have any love of Shakespeare, it will warm your heart to see how deeply Shakespeare has an impact on people who you never would have thought would show any interest. It’s also a surprisingly easy read! I definitely recommend it!

My rating: Definitely Worth the Read

Thoughts & Thanks!

Anyone planning on reading this book? Yea/Nay? Let me know if you’ve read it, want to read it, or have read something similar that you can recommend me!

And, as always, thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

One thought on “Shakespeare Saved My Life | Hot Take Review

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