• High Rise Stories is available for order

      We’re excited to announce that High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing is now available.

      “Joyful, novelistic, and deeply moving.
      High Rise Stories radically expanded my
      understanding of human beings.”
      —George Saunders, author of Tenth of December

      Read an excerpt below.


      To read more from Dolores’s story and order your copy, click here.

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    • Meet Praveena Fernes, the Newest Member of the Voice of Witness Education Advisory Board


      The Voice of Witness education team is excited to announce the newest member of our education advisory board, Praveena Fernes. She will be joining current members Gerald Richards, Nishat Kurwa, Rick Ayers, Katie Kuszmar, and Bill Ayers in assisting the education program with strategic goals, assessment, new initiatives, and outreach. 

      Praveena’s long involvement with Voice of Witness began when she was a student at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, CA. At the time, Praveena said, “Voice of Witness was a life changing experience. I can only hope that in time more students will have the wonderful opportunity I was given.” She has since assisted with our annual Amplifying Unheard Voices oral history training and been a valuable youth voice for our program.

      Praveena is a student at Tulane University in New Orleans, where she serves as a Community Service Scholar and Community Engagement Advocate. Her annual service trips to rural south India, where female infanticide and feticide is prevalent, have fueled her desire to advocate for women’s rights and health. As the youngest certified domestic violence counselor in the Bay Area, she educates high schoolers about dating violence.

      Her academic work centers on traumatic brain injuries in victims who have experienced domestic violence, and her research interests include studying the neuroanatomical morphometry of abusers. By combining her passion for improving public health with her fascination with the brain and her specialization as a domestic violence advocate, she plans on earning a PhD-MPH to initiate prevention programs and transform the way society perceives domestic violence.

      Welcome Praveena! Click here to learn more about the VOW education program advisory board.

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    • Voice of Witness at Free Minds, Free People 2015

      Our education team was at the Free Minds, Free People Conference in Oakland last weekend connecting with other educators and activists over oral history, advocacy, and education. VOW’s education program associate Claire Kiefer collaborated with Justice Now to lead a workshop where they shared oral history narratives from incarcerated women and explored basics of oral history methodology. Claire shares her reflections on the workshop.


      On July 10, 2015, Voice of Witness and partner organization Justice Now led an interactive workshop entitled “Stories from Women’s Prisons: Oral History as Advocacy” at the national Free Minds, Free People conference in Oakland. Participants joined us from around the country to explore the essential question, “How can listening be a form of advocacy?”

      Together as a group, we read an excerpt from Olivia Hamilton’s story in the Voice of Witness book Inside this Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons. Workshop participants reacted to Olivia’s story though a silent activity called “Graffiti Wall,” in which small groups gather around a large piece of butcher paper and respond to the story via words and images. Around the room, people wrote “PRISON ADDRESS ON BIRTH CERTIFICATE” and “SHACKLED DURING LABOR” and drew pictures of an imprisoned woman calling her partner to let him know that she’d birthed their child, via C-section, and was heading back to the state prison.

      The highlight of the workshop was when Justice Now’s Mianta McKnight, sitting in a circle with everyone, shared the story of her own incarceration. Mianta told her story in the emotional, circuitous way in which she remembered it: She was released from prison last year after serving eighteen years, she participated in the (accidental) murder of her sexually abusive stepmother, she was convicted of second degree murder as a teenager, she made lifelong friendships in prison. Through Mianta’s story, workshop participants were able to experience the transformative power of storytelling first hand. Mianta was graceful and brave as people asked her questions such as What makes you feel strong enough to talk about what happened, and What about the women who didn’t get out?

      In small groups, we brainstormed two questions: What are the potential risks and consequences of sharing one’s story? What are the potential risks and consequences of being silent? Through this activity and the debrief that followed, we dug deep into some of the questions and ideas that the process of oral history unearths.  

      Often, we are each other’s most valuable resources, and this certainly proved to be true about Friday’s workshop participants. The room was filled with educators, nonprofit leaders, students, community organizers, and artists, each of whom had critical insight into the potential and power of sharing stories with each other, and how story sharing could be particularly impactful for people in women’s prisons. It was inspiring to see everyone so present together, really hearing each other, and being testimony to this truth, articulated beautifully by Piper Kerman: “The act of documenting your story and telling your story the way you want to tell it is really important, especially for folks who are outcasts and have been shamed.”

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    • Palestine Speaks Co-Editor Mateo Hoke at Revolution Books


      Mateo Hoke, co-editor of Palestine Speaks: Narratives of Life Under Occupation, will be speaking at Revolution Books in Berkeley.

      Wednesday, July 15th, 2015 at 7 p.m.

      Revolution Books
      2425 Channing Way (Off of Telegraph Avenue), Berkeley, California 94704

      $5-$25 tickets available at Brown Paper Tickets or at the door.

      See the Facebook event here. Visit the Revolution Books event page here.

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    • Salon.com Interview with Dave Eggers and Mimi Lok


      Some were mysteriously scooped up for crimes they had supposedly committed. Others lived in the ruins of post-Katrina New Orleans. Still others – like the teenager in East Harlem who woke up to find FBI agents with loaded guns in her family’s apartment — saw parents or spouses dragged away with little explanation. There are confounding and engaging stories from all over the world in the Voice of Witnessoral-history series McSweeney’s puts out, all of which try to give the rest of us a fuller and more human sense of what’s going on in the world. “To read a Voice of Witness book,” short-story master George Saunders says, “is to feel one’s habitual sense of disconnection begin to fall away.”

      San Francisco-based McSweeney’s has just put out a selection of its previous books – which include “Surviving Justice” and “High Rise Stories” — called “The Voice of Witness Reader.” We spoke to executive editor Mimi Lok and Dave Eggers, McSweeney’s founder and editor of the new volume.

      Read the interview here.

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