“A Different Read On Life”

The following piece was recently published on boston.com.

When you’re an addict, life is all about you.

Finding the next hit is a full-time job. You think about yourself from the moment you open your eyes in the morning to the second you nod off, and for every hustle-filled hour in between.

Standing before a judge for the 5th, 6th, 20th time, there is still only that ruined you. Unless you’re lucky enough to get a judge who sees in you what you cannot. Instead of sending you to jail, the judge sends you to a book club.

Yes, a book club — where, if you’re lucky, you’ll glimpse something beyond your shattered self.

“You enter a world other than your daily life,’’ said Meaghan, a tall, 31-year-old addict who spent 10 years in the system, most recently for writing false prescriptions. “I find myself thinking about the characters in the books during the day.’’

On a recent Tuesday night, Meaghan and six other women sat in a green-carpeted classroom at Middlesex Community College, turning over the characters in Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.’’

All seven were sentenced to the program, called “Changing Lives Through Literature,’’ instead of jail or straight probation. They’re required to read a book and show up on time to discuss it every other Tuesday for 14 weeks. The group also includes their probation officers, and, often, a judge, too.

 Read the rest of this article here.

3 thoughts on ““A Different Read On Life”

  1. One of the things that I find truly remarkable about this program is the fact that the book club does not merely consist of those sentenced to the program but also judges and probation officers. It is a beautiful thing that the judge in this article not only has the opportunity to witness the women’s progress and transformation firsthand, but he gets to be a part of it. The idea of a book discussion in which the judge is equal to those he sentenced is equally beautiful – he has the opportunity to see the women as real people with real back stories, and they have the opportunity to see him as a person with a back story as well.

    I think that with the way the legal system in this country is structured, it is easy for those involved to feel like they are merely a part of the system, a cog in a wheel, and that no one is truly seeing them or hearing what they have to say (to the point where they might not feel like they have anything worth hearing in the first place). This program seems to take the “system” out of the equation and what we are left with are the people, their lives, their experiences, their thoughts, and their emotions. What an incredible accomplishment.

  2. I think that this is a wonderful that not only are those sentenced a part of the book club but that the judges and probation officers are involved as well. It allows the members to all share their thoughts and experiences while remaining in a setting that is unbiased, everyone has the freedom to express their thoughts on the books read. Also as addicts it turns them away from their previous addictions to an addiction that is more fulfilling, an addiction to books and learning.

  3. I like that this program doesn’t consist of a lecturer who is simply telling these people that what they are doing is wrong. The program gives them an opportunity to reach beyond what they are going through and think about other ideas/stories. Whenever I read a book I get lost into the pages, and come out in a trance after I am done. If this book has a message, it especially affects me, and I think about it for quite some time. In this way I feel like books have a unique power, which not many people are exposed to. It is exactly how Meaghan puts it, you think about the book even when you aren’t reading it.

    I really like that this program exists. Hopefully, it will continue and will become more ubiquitous as the years go on.

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