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Hard time and softback books: Teaching children’s literature in prison

When I arrived home that night in January, I got the sad news that one of the great writers of young adult books, Ursula Le Guin, had died. She and I had once judged books together for PEN Awards and shared a lively correspondence. When I recall the power of those 16 men sharing their stories with one another that night, something Le Guin wrote comes to mind. “The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp,” she wrote in an 1987 essay. “The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” It was a living thing born of laughter and memory and wild things and a prison guard dozing in the corner.

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