Tag Archives: Heather Ann Thompson

Midwest Literary Walk 2017: Part 2

11 May

Welcome to part 2 of my recap of the Midwest Literary Walk in Chelsea, Michigan. This is my second time attending and it was, again, a great experience.

The second stop on the walk was a non-fiction author, Heather Ann Thompson, who won the Pulitzer Prize in History for her book, Blood in the Water. Thompson was interested in the high rates of incarceration in the US versus other countries and wanted to know why. She traced this back to a single incident, the Attica Prison uprising in New York. The story of Attica that was released to the public at the time painted the prisoners in a very dark light, blaming them for the deaths of guards and soldiers brought in to settle the uprising. The truth that Thompson was able to uncover was that the state shut down access to the prison, brought soldiers into violently take the prison with no intention of settling for the prisoner’s demands, and changed the story to encourage a punitive system in America. Thompson took thirteen years to write her book because she had so much trouble getting records that were not redacted too far to read or were not released to the public. She’s fighting for safe conditions for those incarcerated and transparency of what goes on a public (state and national) jails. Thompson thinks there was direction from a national level but wasn’t able to find any proof or ‘smoking gun’ as she said she was looking for. There are some fingers to point at the state level for sure.

Airea D. Matthews and moderator

The final stop was for poet Airea D. Matthews. She’s local to Detroit and has been active in the spoken word poetry scene for a long time before moving to written poetry. She said she started writing when she was a stay-at-home mom. She felt people judged her for not having a traditional job. She likes to write about a person’s hidden identity, one that is not immediately visible such as what we inherit from our parents. She was talking specifically about disease and inclinations toward additions and abuse. She feels that sharing her struggles helps her create a kinship with her readers. I noticed during her speech that she is very open and spoke about her struggles with mental illness very plainly. She said multiple times that she has become comfortable being uncomfortable.

This was a really great event and I’m so thankful that I live within driving distance of it. I look forward to going for years to come.

Until next time, write on.

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