Tag Archives: Boneshaker Books

Women in Prison – Visiting author imagines options, honors work of local volunteers

“Imagining a world beyond incarceration” is the theme of Maya Schenwar’s new book, a critique on the nation’s prisons entitled Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better.   Schenwar will read from her book and help readers imagine a world beyond incarceration on Saturday, November 22. The reading and discussion, set for 3:00 p.m. at Boneshaker Books, 2002 23rd Avenue South in Minneapolis, is free and open. Schenwar’s reading is sponsored by the Women’s Prison Book Project (WPBP) which is housed at Boneshaker.

Schenwar is Editor-in-Chief of Truthout (http://truth-out.org/author/itemlist/user/45138 where she has written extensively on the criminal justice system, juvenile justice, independent media, campaign politics, and immigration reform. She also served as publicity coordinator for Voices of Creative Nonviolence and serves on the Board of Advisors for Waging Nonviolence.

For the past decade volunteers with WPBP have changed the lives of hundreds of incarcerated women. Volunteers gather at Boneshaker Books every Sunday, Noon-3:00, to process as many as possible of the 600 requests they receive every month. They match books with women’s requests, process, wrap and mail hundreds of donated books to women for whom reading is their sole window on the world.

Bibliophiles who want to share the joy and power of a good read donate a wide range of titles ranging from reference resources to self-improvement to romance and books on health and child development.

WPBP volunteers point to some alarming statistics; for example, “of the more than two million people confined in U.S. prisons and jails, over 150,000 are women. Eighty percent of these women are imprisoned for non-violent crimes such as shoplifting, prostitution, drug-related offenses or fraud. Of the women incarcerated for violent crimes, the vast majority were convicted for defending themselves of their children from abuse. More than half of the women in prison have at least one child under age eighteen; most of these mothers had primary custody of their children before going to prison.

Predictably, books, information and libraries are not high on the list of protected necessities when budgets are slashed.   Of special need are reading and reference materials for trans, queer and gender-variant prisons who sponsors observe “are targeted by the police and prosecution and incarcerated at disproportionate rates.”

Leaders of WPBP neither mince words nor back away from political intent and action: “We recognize that flaws and inequities throughout the ‘justice’ system act to control and suppress the lives/movements of the poor, women, and all people of color. The US. has the highest incarceration rate in the world….As activists on the outside, WPBP provides vital support to women political prisoners and prisoners of war in U.S. prisons and jails.”

If you haven’t visited the WPBP or Boneshaker’s Books, take a virtual tour by clicking on the “photo gallery” on the WPBP website (http://www.wpbp.org) – or follow WPBP on Facebook or Twitter.

WPBP is always in need of financial, moral and volunteer support – contact the volunteers at womensprisonbookproject@gmail.com.



Boneshaker Books adds to cities reading options

Think “boneshaker” and bicycles come immediately to mind – unless you’re clueless like me and had to resort to Wikipedia to get a glimmer.  What ignited my curiosity was the quest to understand the origin of the name of this community’s newest bookstore.  First I learned about the bicycle derivation – and then I had the delight of exploring Boneshaker Books, right in the Seward Neighborhood, on 23rd just off Franklin, in SE Minneapolis.

When I arrived at Boneshaker Books I was far more concerned with bone-chilling than bone-shaking.  My arctic trip to their not-quite-new bookshop had left me grumpy and generally impervious to any good thoughts, much less of bicycles and bookstores.  When I left Boneshakers an hour later, after a broad-ranging chat with Clay Beardshear, member of the collective, I was inspired, energized, open to new ideas – I even had a glimmer of the enigmatic name of the shop and an appreciation of the collaboration that’s working to build this unique bookstore.  Not so relevant at the moment, perhaps, is the fact that Boneshakers really does plan to offer a bicycle delivery service, as befits their name.

To understand Boneshakers is to go back to its roots at Arise! where the seven members of today’s Boneshaker Books collective got their start as volunteers, a mix of professionals, craftspeople and all-round bibliophiles promoting the cause, making a difference in the unique role that Arise! once played on the community scene as a source of progressive, non-traditional, unique reading resources.  When Arise! was forced to close, these seven entrepreneurs first considered purchasing the Arise! building to continue the mission.  For several months they hosted the Storefront in a Box programs at their South Lyndale site, maintaining throughout that the demise of Arise! meant an “unacceptable loss” to this community.

At some point, a new idea took shape, the opportunity to create a bookstore born of but not housed at the Arise! site.  Seward neighborhood and the opportunity to establish a new site in an irresistible option.   Boonshaker Books soon saw the opportunity renovate a beautiful building at the same time they could build an independent organization and business, committed to a collection of fiction and nonfiction titles that include  history and politics, economics, race and sexual relations – with a concerted eye to children’s books that escape the made-for-TV genre that permeates the chains.  The building itself is a model of recycling, re-use and environmental concern – the beautiful hardwood floor was once  a basketball court, shelving hand-crafted by Clay Beardshear is as beautiful as it is sturdy, windows, doors, walls – basically everything – is recycled and elegant.

The all-volunteer staff at Boneshaker Books is committed to the power of the printed – and read – word, and to serving the Twin Cities with a unique mix of book stock and creative programming.

A sidebar issue that I hope/plan to explore in greater depth is the fact that one area of tomorrow’s Boneshakers is reserved for the Women’s Prison Book Project, a program that too many of us had assumed was no longer.  I was happy to learn that it was not dead, but only sleeping.

As with other book dealers Clay was far more interested in the future of the printed book and of Boneshakers than he was with whining about the impact of e-books and other technologies, or even the heavy hand of the biggie publishers.  Totally refreshing.

Boneshaker Books is celebrating their Grand Opening with an all-out bash on Saturday, January 15.  They will open their doors to shoppers and explorers at 11:00 a.m. That evening there will be a great blast off, featuring pizza and other treats, free and open to all.

The Seward neighborhood and adventurous readers throughout the Twin Cities have a grand new option.