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Recent Publication Information for Megan Sweeney


The Story Within Us: Women Prisoners Reflect on Reading


Megan Sweeney
Faculty Info


"The Story Within Us: Women Prisoners Reflect on Reading" features in-depth, oral interviews with eleven incarcerated women, each of whom offers a narrative of her life and her reading experiences within prison walls. The women share powerful stories about their complex and diverse efforts to negotiate difficult relationships, exercise agency in restrictive circumstances, and find meaning and beauty in the midst of pain. Their shared emphases on abuse, poverty, addiction, and mental illness illuminate the pathways that lead many women to prison and suggest possibilities for addressing the profound social problems that fuel crime. Framing the narratives within an analytic introduction and reflective afterword, Megan Sweeney highlights the crucial intellectual work that the incarcerated women perform despite myriad restrictions on reading and education in U.S. prisons. These women use the limited reading materials available to them as sources of guidance and support and as tools for self-reflection and self-education. Through their creative engagements with books, the women learn to reframe their own life stories, situate their experiences in relation to broader social patterns, deepen their understanding of others, experiment with new ways of being, and maintain a sense of connection with their fellow citizens on both sides of the prison fence.

All recent publications by Megan Sweeney

  • The Story Within Us: Women Prisoners Reflect on Reading
  • Reading Is My Window: Books and the Art of Reading in Women’s Prisons

All publications by Megan Sweeney

“Reading Is My Window”: Books and the Art of Reading  in Women’s Prisons; University of North Carolina Press, 2010 
  • (Winner, 2011 Emily Toth Award for Best Single Work in Women's Studies)
  • (Winner, 2010 PASS Award from the National Council of Crime and Delinquency)
  • (Honorable Mention, 2011 Gloria E. Anzaldua Book Prize, National Women's Studies Association)
The Story Within Us: Women Prisoners Reflect on Reading; University of Illinois Press, 2012

“The Rickety Bridge: Prisoners and Human Rights in the Literature Classroom.”  Teaching Human Rights in Literary and Cultural Studies.  Eds. Elizabeth Swanson Goldberg and Alexandra Schultheis.  New York: MLA, 2015.
“‘Keepin’it real’: Incarcerated Women’s Readings of African American Urban Fiction.”  From Codex to Hypertext: Reading at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century.  Ed. Anouk Lang.  University of Massachusetts Press, 2012.

“Legal Brutality: Prisons and  Punishment, the American Way,” American Literary History 22.3 (Fall 2010): 698-713.
“‘I lived that book!’:  Reading Behind Bars.” Interrupted Life: The Experiences of Incarcerated Women in the United StatesEd. Rickie Solinger.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.  180-87.

“Reading and Reckoning in a Women’s Prison.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 50.3 (2008): 304-328.  Special Issue on Detention.  Ed.  Phillip Barrish.

“Books as Bombs: Incendiary Reading Practices in Women’s Prisons.”  PMLA 123.3 (May 2008): 666-672.

Beard v. Banks: Deprivation as Rehabilitation.” PMLA 122.3 (May 2007): 779-783.

“‘Something Rogue’: Commensurability, Commodification, Crime, and Justice in Toni Morrison’s Later Fiction.”  Modern Fiction Studies 52.2 (Summer 2006): 440-469.

“Prison Narratives, Narrative Prisons: Incarcerated Women Reading Gayl Jones’s Eva’s Man.”  After the Pain: Critical Essays on Gayl Jones, Ed. Fiona  Mills and Keith Mitchell, New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2006. 173-202.

“Prison Narratives, Narrative Prisons:  Incarcerated Women Reading Gayl Jones’s Eva’s Man.”  Feminist Studies 30.2 (Summer 2004):  456-482.
  • (winner of 2003 Feminist Studies Award)
“Racial House, Big House, Home: Contemporary  Abolitionism in Toni Morrison’s Paradise.”  Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 4.2 (Spring 2004): 36-63.

“Living to Read True Crime: Theorizations from Prison.”  Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture 25.1-2 (Winter/Spring 2003): 55-89.

“Provocations and Possibilities: Rethinking Prisoners’ Discourse” (Guest Editor’s Introduction). Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture 35.3-4 (Fall/Winter 2002): 393-405.

“Legally Blind: Seeking Alternative  Literacies From Prison.”  Genre: Forms of Discourse and Culture  35.3-4 (Fall/Winter 2002): 599-624.

“Two Unpublished Letters from Lady Morgan to Richard Jones.”  English Language Notes 23.3 (1998): 40-52.

“To Succeed in Becoming Criminal Without Crime: The Algorithm of True Crime Texts.”  Symploke 6.1-2 (1998):  145-156.

Review: Fugitive Thought: Prison  Movements, Race, and the Meaning of Justice by Michael Hames-Garcia and Questionable  Charity: Gender, Humanitarianism, and Complicity in U.S. Literary Realism by William M. Morgan, American Literature 77.4 (December  2005): 864-867.

Review: Law, Crime and Sexuality: Essays in Feminism by Carol P. Smart, Crime, Law & Social Change 26.4 (1996): 385-388.

“Freedom for Me Was an Evolution, Not a Revolution.”   Race and Prison.  Eds. Curtis Stokes and Lynn O. Scott.  East Lansing, Michigan State University Press, forthcoming 2015.

“Mendings” (book manuscript)

“‘The Gardener Who Prepared the Soil’: Sadie Peterson Delaney and the Legacy of Arts-based Therapies for Veterans” (article)


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