Inside this Place, Not of It, Narratives from Women’s Prisons, Edited by Robin Levi and Ayelet Waldman

August 2018

Reading List


Inside This Place, Not of It reveals some of the most egregious human rights violations within women’s prisons in the United States. Here, in their own words, thirteen narrators recount their lives leading up to incarceration and their harrowing struggle for survival once inside.

Among the narrators:

Theresa, who spent years believing her health and life were in danger, being aggressively treated with a variety of medications for a disease she never had. Only on her release did she discover that an incompetent prison medical bureaucracy had misdiagnosed her with HIV.

Anna, who repeatedly warned apathetic prison guards about a suicidal cellmate. When the woman killed herself, the guards punished Anna in an attempt to silence her and hide their own negligence.

Teri, who was sentenced to up to fifty years for aiding and abetting a robbery when she was only seventeen. A prison guard raped Teri, who was still a teenager, and the assaults continued for years with the complicity of other staff.



Inside this Place, Not of It, Narratives from Women’s Prisons, a collection of oral histories by real people about the astonishing facts of their lives and experiences being incarcerated, is a remarkable work of art. It is insistently, urgently readable. Every story is so different. Those who speak in the book range in age, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, and cultural background. What they have in common is the crushing experience of prison, and also, the wisdom and insight that comes from that experience. They are all riveting storytellers: experts on their own lives, and on the cruelty of institutions. The editors, Robin Levi and Ayelet Waldman, both dedicated human rights lawyers, conducted all the interviews, and did all the editing, which is masterful. The speakers are all incredible raconteurs. The honesty in this book, and the wide range of voices, make it an obvious choice for a reading list aiming to highlight awareness of the experiences of those sucked into the justice system. And the ethical project of Voice of Witness—the series in which Inside this Place was published, which aims to provide oral histories by those directly impacted by human rights violations—seemed exactly in tune with our project, and the books we wanted to highlight. Mostly, this is a book you really will stay up all night reading. And you will finish not only with a better sense of who the book’s storytellers are, but with real admiration for them.” —Rachel Kushner


Robin Levi is a consultant working in the field of human rights and is the former human rights director at Justice Now. While a staff attorney at the Women’s Rights Division of Human Rights Watch, she documented sexual abuse of women in U.S. state prisons.




Ayelet Waldman
 is the bestselling author of Love and Other Impossible PursuitsDaughter’s KeeperRed Hook RoadBad Mother, and, most recently Love and Treasure. She has also written for The New York TimesVogue, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.