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Books Through Bars: Stories from the Prison Books Movement

The Athens-Clarke County Library, Avid Bookshop, and the University of Georgia Press invite you to an event in celebration of the book Books Through Bars: Stories from the Prison Books Movement on Thursday, April 25, 2024, from 7-8pm at the Athens-Clarke County Library. The event will be a panel discussion with Dave "Mac" Marquis, Moira Marquis, and Valerie Surrett who are editors and a contributor to the book with a book signing afterwards.

For accessibility requests, contact Please submit your request at least two weeks before the event.


People organizing prison book programs have quietly gathered in basements, storage spaces, and the back rooms of secondhand bookstores for the last seventy years, reading letters written by incarcerated people and sending books in return. This diffuse and nonhierarchical movement operates on shoestring budgets with donated libraries in thirty states, and yet, there is little awareness of this long-standing social movement.

This book contains essays that explain the need for prison book programs and offer advice on how to establish or become involved with prison book programs, as well as shed light on current challenges. While mass incarceration can make people feel powerless, this book details how ordinary people can organize and intervene in the largest imprisonment the world has ever known. The editors of this book hope it will inspire more people to realize that everyone has the power to treat each other differently and to foster a culture of care over cruelty.


Dave “Mac” Marquis is a lifelong activist. He has worked with the Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal, Earth First!, and the Asheville Global Report. He helped establish Asheville Prison Books as well as Saxapahaw Prison Books. Mac is the book review editor for H-Labor and the executive assistant for the Labor and Working-Class History Association. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of South Carolina.

Moira Marquis manages the Freewrite Project based in PEN America’s Prison and Justice Writing program. She has worked with Asheville Prison Books and the Prison Books Collective in Carrboro, North Carolina, and cofounded Saxapahaw Prison Books. Her popular writing can be found in LitHub, TruthOut, and PEN America’s Works of Justice series.

Valerie Surrett has volunteered with the Appalachian Prison Book Project (Morgantown, WV) since 2016 and has served as the organization's president, volunteer coordinator, and co-facilitator of prison book clubs. She is an assistant professor of English at the University of North Georgia where she teaches classes on prison literature and film and the rhetorics of mass incarceration.

Event Location

Athens-Clarke County Library

2025 Baxter Street

Athens, GA 30606

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