I believe everyone likes to read – they just haven’t found the right book. Or newspaper, or magazine, or blog, or whatever form of print strikes your fancy. I discovered reading as a kid through the Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, and biographies of famous royalty. I especially loved mysteries because they handed me a puzzle that I could try to solve. Biographies offered me a glance into another world, where I could meet amazing characters and encounter fantastic adventures – all the while knowing the stories were real.
I first became interested in prison issues my freshman year when a friend recommended I volunteer for the Prisoners Literature Project, a Berkeley organization that sends books to prisoners in response to their letters. Later, in the summer of 2011, when I was interning at Forum on KQED Public Radio, I worked firsthand on episodes relating to the Pelican Bay hunger strike and the Supreme Court’s ruling on California prison overcrowding as prison issues filled the airwaves. From there, I enrolled in a class on the history of prisons in the United States. One particular book struck me – Eric Cummins’ The Rise and Fall of California’s Radical Prison Movement. The book detailed the history of education programs at San Quentin, from institutionalized “bibliotherapy,” in which the prison proscribed “appropriate” and “moral” reading, to underground history lessons taught by members of the Black Panthers.
For my last semester at Cal, I am involved in the Teach in Prison DeCal, which sends tutors to San Quentin. I’m also working on my senior thesis, which will focus on sex education courses at UC Berkeley during the 1940s and 50s. I know you can’t judge a book by its cover, but perhaps you can learn about one through their bookshelf – mine has a book about radicalism in California prisons next to a reader about human reproduction, which sits near a handbook on how to construct the perfect 1950s marriage. All nestled between my Nancy Drew and the autobiography of Hilary Clinton (she’s basically the democratic equivalent of a queen, right?).
When not reading, I can often be found playing piccolo in the Cal Band, for which I served on the Executive Committee. I also facilitate a course on historical research and library access. I previously worked as a writing tutor through Academic Services in the campus dorms and as a workshop leader for a Chicano Studies class through Summer Bridge, a program aimed at easing the transition to college for students from under-supported schools.
I graduate in May, and then I start a whole new chapter. I hope to become somehow involved in public history or the digital humanities. I believe in creating accessible, intelligent means of accessing and disseminating information. There are a lot of stories that get left out of books, and I hope to contribute to the telling of them!
Other places you can find me: