“Shakespeare saved my life: Ten years in Solitary with the Bard” Laura Bates

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). Published April 2, 2013. Sourcebooks. 286 pp.

ShakespeareSavedMyLifeI have never read a book that touched me as much as this memoir. Dr. Laura Bates is an English professor who regularly volunteers to teach English classes to inmates. Soon, she’s advanced to teaching in a maximum security prison with all types of dangerous, murderous men. As unbelievable as it sounds, she is there to teach them Shakespeare.

The study of these 400 year old works does amazing things to soften and change these hardened criminals for the better, but she focuses on one inmate – Larry. He was incarcerated for a murder committed at the age of 17, serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole or of an appeal, and spent 10 years in solitary confinement for attempted murder of a guard, numerous escape attempts, and other infractions. From this man’s mouth comes some of the most soul filled and heart rending sections of the book.

Dr. Bates, Larry and the prisoners bond over Shakespeare, and readers will also find themselves bonding with all of them as we’re drawn into their experiences, words and insights. Whether or not inmates should be educated is a subject brought up in the storyline, and I can say my mind was changed after reading the incredible success story Dr. Bates shared with us and seeing how much it changed the prisoners for the better.

“Shakespeare saved my life” is a raw, honest, insider’s look at prison life and prisoners. Dr. Bates does a wonderful job getting into the prisoner’s minds and explaining how Shakespeare allowed them to analyze their past, present and future actions. She spent 10 years reaching out to, and changing ¬†hundreds of men and juvenile offenders with Shakespeare’s words. She’ll change you too.

Recommended for Adult readers and mature high schoolers.

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