This book could change everything. It could change our minds. It could buttress our hearts. It could make graspable why today's prisons are contemporary slave plantations. I couldn't put it down and I tried. --Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple
A haunting and powerfully moving book that gives voice to the poorest among us and lays bare the cruelty of a penal system that too often defines their lives.
In this unforgettable work, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, who brought us War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and America, The Farewell Tour, provides an intimate and moving look at the lives of the students he teaches in a maximum-security prison. He and twenty-eight students (who together are serving a combined sentence of 515 years) read and discussed plays by Amiri Baraka, John Herbert, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Miguel Pi?eroand August Wilson, among others. Together they set out to write an original play drawing on their experiences of poverty, institutionalized racism, police brutality and mass incarceration. (Their play, Caged, would eventually perform to sold-out audiences and be published as a book in 2020.)
In The Class, the men--some of whom know they will die in prison--give voice to the struggles of grief, shame, injustice, guilt and generational trauma they and their families have endured, as well as to their hopes and dreams. Hedges chronicles with heart-breaking intimacy the emotional struggle for artistic expression that leads to self-awareness, transformation and redemption. The Class is at once a story of creative triumph and a scorching critique of the racialized poverty that plagues North America and what it does to the most vulnerable.