Critical stories are narratives that recount the writer’s experiences, situating those experiences in broader cultural contexts. In this volume of Critical Storytelling, marginalized, excluded, and oppressed peoples share insights from their liminality to help readers learn from their perspectives on living from behind invisible bars. Female inmates at Decatur’s Correctional Center and the undergraduate Millikin University students who worked with them come together to give voice to their specific histories of living from behind invisibile bars and pose important questions to the reader about inciting change for the future. Specifically, the voices in this volume seek to expose, analyze, and challenge deeply-entrenched narratives and characterizations of incarcerated women, whose histories are often marked by sexual abuse, domestic violence, poverty, PTSD, a lack of education, housing insecurity, mental illness, and substance addiction. These silenced female inmate voices need to be heard and contextualized within the larger metanarrative of prison literature. Through telling critical stories, these writers attempt to: sustain recovery from trauma, make positive changes and informed decisions, create a real sense of empowerment, strengthen their capacity to exercise personal agency, and inspire audiences to create change far outside the reaches of physical and metaphorical bars.
Contributors are: Anonymous, Soren Belle, Megan Batty, Dwight G. Brown, Jr., Sandra Brown, Kathryn Coffey, Kelly Cunningham, Paiten Hamilton, Kathlyn J. Housh, Rebekah Icenesse, Kala Keller, Jelisa Lovette, Bric Martin, Amanda Minetti, Laura Nearing, Angie Oaks, Claire Prendergast, Cara Quiett, J. M. Spence, Noah Villarreal and Alisha Walker.
Carmella J. Braniger, Ph.D. (2003), Oklahoma State University, is Associate Professor of English at Millikin University. She has published poems and critical stories, including a story in Critical Storytelling in Uncritical Times (Sense, 2017), for which she served as editor.
Kathryn Coffey is an undergraduate at Millikin University. She has had articles published on the Decaturian and BURST. She also has work published in Collage (Fall 2019).
Rebekah Icenesse is an English Writing undergraduate at Millikin University. She has had articles published in BURST, and the Decaturian, where she serves as an editor.
Alex V. Miller is a Professor at Millikin University where he teaches all levels of acting and stage combat, serves as Coordinator of Performance, Mainstage Director, Resident Fight Director, and is founder of and Executive Director for Shakespeare Corrected. Though his professional performance career has taken him from coast to coast, he currently lives on a small farm in Hammond, IL with his wife and two children.
Notes on Contributors
Alex V. Miller
1 A Prisoner’s Melody
Sandra Brown, Jelissa Lovette and Alisha Walker 2 Barcode
Sandra Brown 3 Caged
Jelissa Lovette 4 The Forbidden & the Prohibited
Soren Belle 5 Truth or Dare
Sandra Brown 6 The People I Met When the Sky Went Dark
Bric Martin 7 The Great Wall of Insanity
J. M. Spence 8 State of Mind
Jelissa Lovette 9 The Call
Sandra Brown 10 Pivotal Times
Angie Oakes 11 A Daughter’s Sorrow
Sandra Brown 12 Talking It out from the Inside
Cara Quiett 13 Mother-Less Child
Jelissa Lovette 14 Not Waving, Not Drowning
Sandra Brown 15 Isaac
Claire Prendergast 16 Prison
Angie Oaks 17 Love Find Me
Jelissa Lovette 18 Little Girl Lost
Angie Oakes 19 Everlasting Kiss
Jelissa Lovette 20 Backburner Bitch
Anonymous 21 Love Alive
Kala Keller 22 My Dragonfly
Laura Neering 23 Puzzle Pieces in My Eyes
Rebekah M. Icenesse 24 Piece of Me
Jelissa Lovette 25 Nothing New under the Sun
Sandra Brown 26 Living a Life with Invisible Bars
Kathlyn J. Housh 27 Where Would I Be
Jelissa Lovette 28 My Odyssey
Sandra Brown 29 What Makes Straight so Great?
Dwight G. Brown, Jr. 30 Nature’s Sanctuary
Angie Oakes 31 Nature’s Pride and Promise
Cara Quiett 32 Finding Stability in Motion
Megan Batty 33 Queen of Soul
Jelisa Lovette 34 Melodies & Recipes
Cara Quiett 35 Unanswered Questions
Paiten Hamilton 36 Gregory’s Gift
Sandra Brown 37 Sentimental Syrup
Cara Quiett 38 Perfection: A History of Me & My Multi-Colored Elephants
Kathryn A. Coffey 39 Final Thoughts
Sandra Brown 40 Stopping the Cycle: My Journey with Generational Body Image
Kelly Cunningham 41 My Four Opportunities to Grow Up
Noah Villarreal 42 My Last Bow
Amanda Minetti 43 The Eulogy
Sandra Brown 44 Yoga Me Free
Cara Quiett 45 Metamorphosis
Carmella J. Braniger, Rebekah M. Icenesse, Kathryn A. Coffey and Alex V. Miller
All interested in intersections among disciplines, especially the humanities and social sciences, particularly English, Communication, and social justice program students; anyone teaching communication, composition, or creative and/or critical storytelling courses.