NBF Announces Inaugural Literature for Justice Program Titles

September 2018



Selected Reading titles for Literature for Justice

The National Book Foundation’s Literature for Justice program (LFJ) includes five contemporary titles that shed light on mass incarceration in the United States, selected independently by five committee members tasked with elevating the books’ visibility. This committee worked alongside the Foundation as part of a three-year campaign that seeks to contextualize and humanize the experiences of incarcerated people through literature of different genres, creating an accessible and visible collection of books crafted for broad public consumption.

These five titles will serve as the center for LFJ’s first year of programming that includes large-scale public events featuring authors and experts on mass incarceration, as well as digital assets like supplemental reading recommendations and further commentary from participating committee members. The selected books will be part of a larger, overarching narrative that will include 15 titles over three years, with five new committee members and titles each year.

The inaugural LFJ book selections seek to provide narratives from diverse perspectives and across genres. The five-title list comprises a book of poetry, a nonfiction collection of incarcerated women’s stories, an epistolary novel, a primer on the state of incarceration, and a memoir. Three of the titles on the list are written by authors who have previously been incarcerated.

Literature for Justice is made possible by a three-year grant from the Art for Justice Fund, a sponsored project of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

  • A Place to Stand, by Jimmy Santiago Baca (Grove Press, June 2002)
  • Shahid Reads His Own Palm, by Reginald Dwayne Betts (Alice James Books, June 2010)
  • Upstate: A Novelby Kalisha Buckhanon (St. Martin’s Press, January 2006)
  • Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time, by James Kilgore (The New Press, September 2015)
  • Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives From Women’s Prisons, edited by Ayelet Waldman and Robin Levi (Verso Books, July 2017)

Learn more about the Literature for Justice launch event in Los Angeles on October 24th here.