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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Advocating for a Book

She came from a poor neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, where she grew up rooting for the underdog Cubs. Craziness of varying degrees seemed to run in her family. Even before declaring herself a lesbian, she had convinced her family that she was a “loser.” But somehow classes at a community college in Arizona led to a law school in California that didn’t require a college degree, and Sunny (don’t call her Sandra) Schwartz found her destiny working with jail inmates in San Francisco. Dreams from the Monster Factory is a powerhouse of a book, not only for the raw energy of Sunny’s stories but also for the strong, positive power of her hope and energy:
What do we do with the people who get out of jail and come back to our communities? I know that we can actually use the prisons to make us safer and our communities better. I know it because I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen men who have committed horrible crimes defy all predictions, take responsibility for their lives and begin to make amends. Every time that happens, for me, it’s like the Cubs have won the World Series.

Schwartz wants to help victims and criminals alike, but she makes no excuses for anyone. She noticed early on that despite all their differences, most prisoners had one thing in common. She realized this right away with Martin, her first inmate client.
He had no remorse. He complained about jail conditions, complained about his lawyer, felt bad for himself, but never once offered me one word of sorrow for the people he’d hurt, the pain he’d caused.

What will be the key to turn these people around? I’m not far enough into the book to have that answer, but you can bet I’ll be reading full-steam ahead. If I haven’t yet convinced you to read Dreams from the Monster Factory, take a look at Schwartz's website.

I believe that human beings can make society better without changing basic human nature, and every time I find a book that reveals a piece of the puzzle, my heart is lifted.

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