Deborah Appleman in the Press
Iam a teacher who loves teaching, but as the new school year begins, I have become a reluctant culture warrior. I am fighting against a reflexive cancel culture that calls for the banning of books and authors in often capricious ways. And I am convinced that it is our students who will lose in this war.
In Literature and the New Culture Wars, Professor Deborah Appleman addresses the contentious contemporary discourse around which books deserve a place in the classroom, breaking down practical strategies for teaching troubled texts while still confronting and dissecting the controversies they may invoke.
“Appleman demonstrates the humanizing power writing brings to her students, one of whom wrote, “I believe writing can heal the deepest gashes and restore a fragmented soul.” Finally, Appleman explores the school-to-prison pipeline and suggests methods of breaking the all-too common transition from high school to incarceration.”
“Appleman does more than argue that these men, many of whom have committed heinous crimes and will never be released, are still human beings capable of moral redemption: She shows readers this through their writing. Moreover, the author makes a convincing case for the power of stories, not just to entertain and distract, but also to reimagine the writers’ very selves and supply the sources for inspiration that sometimes life itself refuses.”
“She offers profiles of four incarcerated learners with excerpts from their own work, from poetry to memoir and academic writing. Interspersed between these chapters are entries from Appleman’s blog, giving a warm personal tone to the book that also includes more academic discussions of the importance of this work.”
“As Deborah Appleman enters the maximum security prison where she teaches prisoners, she hands off her license, jewelry, shoes — all the talismans of her identity – and walks through the metal detector; one that she says puts airport security scanners to shame. Her materials are in a clear plastic book bag and her right hand is stamped with invisible ink, which will be scanned with a fluorescent light on her way out to make sure that a cross-dressing imposter is not trying to escape. This is the opening scene in Deborah Appleman’s WORDS NO BARS CAN HOLD. It is a sobering scene. You can hear the door locking behind her as she enters her classroom – locked in with her students, without a guard. All these safeguards reinforce an important dynamic of working in a prison: they are in control; she is not. In order to continue teaching she must carefully follow all the rules.”