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I'll Fly Away: Further Testimonies from the Women of York Prison

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In 2003 Wally Lamb—the author of two of the most beloved novels of our time, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True—published Couldn't Keep It to Myself, a collection of essays by the students in his writing workshop at the maximum-security York Correctional Institution, Connecticut's only prison for women. Writing, Lamb discovered, was a way for these women to con In 2003 Wally Lamb—the author of two of the most beloved novels of our time, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True—published Couldn't Keep It to Myself, a collection of essays by the students in his writing workshop at the maximum-security York Correctional Institution, Connecticut's only prison for women. Writing, Lamb discovered, was a way for these women to confront painful memories, face their fears and their failures, and begin to imagine better lives. The New York Times described the book as "Gut-tearing tales . . . the unvarnished truth." The Los Angeles Times said of it, "Lying next to and rising out of despair, hope permeates this book." Now Lamb returns with I'll Fly Away, a new volume of intimate, searching pieces from the York workshop. Here, twenty women—eighteen inmates and two of Lamb's cofacilitators—share the experiences that shaped them from childhood and that haunt and inspire them to this day. These portraits, vignettes, and stories depict with soul-baring honesty how and why women land in prison—and what happens once they get there. The stories are as varied as the individuals who wrote them, but each testifies to the same core truth: the universal value of knowing oneself and changing one's life through the power of the written word.


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In 2003 Wally Lamb—the author of two of the most beloved novels of our time, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True—published Couldn't Keep It to Myself, a collection of essays by the students in his writing workshop at the maximum-security York Correctional Institution, Connecticut's only prison for women. Writing, Lamb discovered, was a way for these women to con In 2003 Wally Lamb—the author of two of the most beloved novels of our time, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True—published Couldn't Keep It to Myself, a collection of essays by the students in his writing workshop at the maximum-security York Correctional Institution, Connecticut's only prison for women. Writing, Lamb discovered, was a way for these women to confront painful memories, face their fears and their failures, and begin to imagine better lives. The New York Times described the book as "Gut-tearing tales . . . the unvarnished truth." The Los Angeles Times said of it, "Lying next to and rising out of despair, hope permeates this book." Now Lamb returns with I'll Fly Away, a new volume of intimate, searching pieces from the York workshop. Here, twenty women—eighteen inmates and two of Lamb's cofacilitators—share the experiences that shaped them from childhood and that haunt and inspire them to this day. These portraits, vignettes, and stories depict with soul-baring honesty how and why women land in prison—and what happens once they get there. The stories are as varied as the individuals who wrote them, but each testifies to the same core truth: the universal value of knowing oneself and changing one's life through the power of the written word.

30 review for I'll Fly Away: Further Testimonies from the Women of York Prison

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Several years ago, I read "Couldn't Keep It To Myself", the first collection of stories from Wally Lamb and the women of York Correctional Institution. I absolutely loved the book and my copy quickly became tattered as friend after friend read the book and shared my sense of awe. When I heard that a second compilation was being released, I couldn't wait to read it. Like its predecessor, this book is a collection of stories written by a group of women who are part of a prison writing workshop led Several years ago, I read "Couldn't Keep It To Myself", the first collection of stories from Wally Lamb and the women of York Correctional Institution. I absolutely loved the book and my copy quickly became tattered as friend after friend read the book and shared my sense of awe. When I heard that a second compilation was being released, I couldn't wait to read it. Like its predecessor, this book is a collection of stories written by a group of women who are part of a prison writing workshop led by Wally Lamb. The stories cover a number of topics from childhood memories to the experience of incarceration. I found each one to be emotionally honest and poignant. I am so impressed by the candor these women show in telling their stories, the courage they show in sharing their stories with the world, and the wisdom that they seem to gain through the thoughtful exploration and writing about aspects of their lives. I have a very deep respect and appreciation for these writers. So many times in our society, we think of people who are incarcerated simply as their crime and forget about the complexities of the human experience. I wish that policy makers would read books like this one and begin to recognize the myriad circumstances that are part of many incarcerated women's experience: domestic violence, child abuse, molestation, drugs, mentally ill parents. Perhaps then we would be willing to take action to prevent these things from happening and to provide services to rehabilitate and support when they do. Thank you to Wally Lamb and the women of York.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Esther Bradley-detally

    I value Wally Lamb as a writer, but also he has contributed so much to women in the prison system, and I'm sure received much satisfaction. I teach homeless women and women in transition writing. I am drawn to the anonymous amongst us as they reveal a true nobility. I'll Fly Way, further testimonies from the Women of York Prison fits into that category. I write to someone in Chowchilla, and do things in a small way to help her. She was battered, but is not under that status; lawyers are working o I value Wally Lamb as a writer, but also he has contributed so much to women in the prison system, and I'm sure received much satisfaction. I teach homeless women and women in transition writing. I am drawn to the anonymous amongst us as they reveal a true nobility. I'll Fly Way, further testimonies from the Women of York Prison fits into that category. I write to someone in Chowchilla, and do things in a small way to help her. She was battered, but is not under that status; lawyers are working on her and her mother's release. The narratives within these pages speak honestly and with courage. I also have a new friend who was imprisoned for over 25 years, innocent of the charge of murder, and she was released. Prison is a horror story. I'm not absolving all those guilty of horrendous crimes, but our legal system geared to wealthier components of our society. Wally Lam conducted writing workshops at the maximum security York Correctional Institutions, Connecticut's only prison for women. Lam discovered writing allowed these women to confront painful memoires, face their fears and their failures and begin to imagine better lives. These pieces are very thoughtful; I'd encourage anyone to read them.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tamsen

    I would have given this three stars, if I had realized that a bio about each of the authors was at the very end. My main gripe with this collection (I gave "Couldn't Keep It to Myself" 5 stars - just for your reference) was the fact that the stories blurred together. I loved in CKITM that prior to each short story, there was a picture of the inmate, with, I believe, their name and reason for being incarcerated. In this collection, I went from short story to short story - they blurred in their sa I would have given this three stars, if I had realized that a bio about each of the authors was at the very end. My main gripe with this collection (I gave "Couldn't Keep It to Myself" 5 stars - just for your reference) was the fact that the stories blurred together. I loved in CKITM that prior to each short story, there was a picture of the inmate, with, I believe, their name and reason for being incarcerated. In this collection, I went from short story to short story - they blurred in their sameness. I kept lamenting the fact that Wally had chosen not to include this bio of each before the story, so that the stories could really hammer home the fact that these women are more than their crime. You can imagine how pissed I was when I got to the end and realized there they all were - little bios on each woman. Damn it. I tried to read them then, and going back to their short story to reference who they really were, but it just wasn't the same. I thought the best short stories were by Barbara Parsons ("Reawakening through Nature: A Prison Reflection") and Deborah Ranger ("Shhh, Don't Tell").

  4. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I really liked this book--I feel like if you kill your abusive husband after he molests your grandchild you shouldn't get a 25 year sentence.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Powerful vignettes from women in prison about glimpses of time in childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and prison. It changed some of my views and banished stereotypes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mkittysamom

    I'll fly away is something I've secretly said to myself, throughout my life. Also I've read Piper's book and watched "Orange is the New Black", so those are my determining factors when I picked up this book. I wondered about my friends in jail, and how I managed to escape the Law... Wally Lamb is not just an editor, he teaches the women in NY prison how to write. I was really impressed to read about his contributions! These women worked hard, it shows when you read what they wrote. I read throug I'll fly away is something I've secretly said to myself, throughout my life. Also I've read Piper's book and watched "Orange is the New Black", so those are my determining factors when I picked up this book. I wondered about my friends in jail, and how I managed to escape the Law... Wally Lamb is not just an editor, he teaches the women in NY prison how to write. I was really impressed to read about his contributions! These women worked hard, it shows when you read what they wrote. I read through the book so fast, it all flowed and I related to many of them. Many of the reasons the women were (and are) in the prison were after effects of being abused. "In tears, I stare up at the night sky. "Hi. It's me." I am speaking aloud. "If anyone's up there, I need your help. I love him, but I'm not strong enough. It's been bad for months and it keeps getting worse. So I'm asking for a favor. Please let me die. I don't want it to be painful. Just let me go to sleep and not wake up." II Torn Pants, Empty Sky 1998 Charrissa Willette This is a statement I have made dozens of time, and when I read this it hit me rock hard in the heart. Char as a 14 year old, gets picked up by an 18 year old boy...(at that age, I thought it was cool too) and her first relationship with this man (who raped her) ends up her last and lands her in prison years later.. although he abused her. Why are we jailing abused women, who kill in self defense?A lot of women are hopeless either stuck in prison for numerous years or life, all their golden years spent in a prison... for things like drugs, abuse and things that could have been avoided. "I'll Fly Away" just touched my heart, and I encourage anyone to read the words of the women from NY Prison. One woman on the outside, lives the same as on the inside.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    While difficult to read at times, this book is amazing. I'm glad this opportunity of cathartic release, healing or whatever the women in the writing group got fom it was available to them. If only such a program was available to all inmates perhaps recidivism rates would decrease. The accounts of prison life in this book actually does much more to degrade, dehumanize and revictimize people who have already endured more than I can imagine than peison does to rehabilitate. The most eye opening and While difficult to read at times, this book is amazing. I'm glad this opportunity of cathartic release, healing or whatever the women in the writing group got fom it was available to them. If only such a program was available to all inmates perhaps recidivism rates would decrease. The accounts of prison life in this book actually does much more to degrade, dehumanize and revictimize people who have already endured more than I can imagine than peison does to rehabilitate. The most eye opening and powerful essay in the book is the last one by Barbara Parsons. Her recount of a prison guard exercise was gut wrenching and appalling. This book helps to breakdown stereotypes of inmates and to humanize a population often forgotten or avoided. I will be reading the other book of essays from the women of York as soon as I get my hands on it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Bookworm Adventure Girl

    Wally Lamb is one of my favourite authors and I have always been interested in his work with inmates at York Correctional Institute. The writings of these women are healing, disturbing, interesting, and a reminder that we all have a story to tell.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Theresa Perfetto

    A compilation of short true stories from women in prison. It was ok. Felt like Mr. Lamb was helping these women learn to write their pain down while teaching them to write and published it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Erin Jooss

    Just as good as Couldn't Keep It To Myself.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lea Ann

    I picked this Kindle version up when I saw something with Wally Lamb's name on it was only $1.99. I've loved Wally Lamb ever since reading I Know This Much is True in college. Given my surprise when I began reading and discovered it was not a book written by him, but a collection of stories from women incarcerated in York Prison in Connecticut, I was pleased to find I actually enjoyed much of the content of this collection. Lamb gives an excellent introduction for I'll Fly Away, delving into why I picked this Kindle version up when I saw something with Wally Lamb's name on it was only $1.99. I've loved Wally Lamb ever since reading I Know This Much is True in college. Given my surprise when I began reading and discovered it was not a book written by him, but a collection of stories from women incarcerated in York Prison in Connecticut, I was pleased to find I actually enjoyed much of the content of this collection. Lamb gives an excellent introduction for I'll Fly Away, delving into why the writing workshops performed in the prison were important and ultimately successful for many of the inmates. It was sad, but not ultimately surprising, to learn that the State of Connecticut sought to recoup money from the women who had made modest profits from having their work published. While the stories are deeply personal tales from the women themselves, all non-fiction reflections of their lives in and out of prison, the whole collection invokes broader themes of domestic abuse and violence, and the punitive v. rehabilitative aims of mass incarceration in America. Do we want those convicted to be punished for their crime, or do we as a society, benefit more from individuals being rehabilitated and unlikely to offend again? (Did I tip my hand with the way I asked that question?). There is something grossly dehumanizing about numbering and locking people away that I think does damage to both captive and jailer. That's not to say that some people are too violent and damaged in a way that means they should not ever be allowed in society again, but the way in which we house and incarcerate large swaths of our population should be examined. Hearing first hand accounts from these women help to keep them from being mere names and numbers in a sea of inmates, and hopefully helps show their human sides, our shared humanity after all, is a great equalizer.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Despite the intro explaining the writing group at York Prison, I had a hard time deciding what the point of this book was. That's not to say it wasn't a worthwhile read but I do have some issues with the way the book itself is handled. One is that in many short story/essay style books, there will often be a list of contributors somewhere on the cover, but in this case what we really get is a single name on the cover, and that person happens to be the editor. I certainly don't mean to diminish La Despite the intro explaining the writing group at York Prison, I had a hard time deciding what the point of this book was. That's not to say it wasn't a worthwhile read but I do have some issues with the way the book itself is handled. One is that in many short story/essay style books, there will often be a list of contributors somewhere on the cover, but in this case what we really get is a single name on the cover, and that person happens to be the editor. I certainly don't mean to diminish Lamb's participation in and dedication to the program but if this is meant to be for the women of the prison, shouldn't his name be the aside and not the focus? It is particularly noticeable because the stories are extremely personal and yet all of the contributor's bios are bunched at the end instead of with each piece where connection and credit would make the most sense. A friend pointed out that perhaps this was intentional since one goal of the project is to remind us that these prisoners are humans, not the embodiment of their crime. As is to be expected in a book with 20 or so authors, the writing here is inconsistent but none of the pieces rely on writing skill to get their message across. With the exception of perhaps 3-4, every story is heartbreaking, frustrating, exhausting, infuriating, shocking, and startlingly identifiable. This isn't a book to pick up for a "light read" but it is a great book club selection, and certainly a book that is sensitive to how sexual and domestic abuse makes double victims out of so many.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey Stein

    If I were Wally Lamb and the women of York Prison, I would be annoyed. These inmates WERE "Orange is the New Black" long before Piper Kerman or Jenji Kohan laid claim to being the authority on female correctional institutions. This book is raw and heavily underrated. I've been a long time fan of Wally Lamb and although his work as a creative writing teacher would go on to inspire one of his later novels, "The Hour I First Believed" (also wonderful), it's the writers of the essays in this antholo If I were Wally Lamb and the women of York Prison, I would be annoyed. These inmates WERE "Orange is the New Black" long before Piper Kerman or Jenji Kohan laid claim to being the authority on female correctional institutions. This book is raw and heavily underrated. I've been a long time fan of Wally Lamb and although his work as a creative writing teacher would go on to inspire one of his later novels, "The Hour I First Believed" (also wonderful), it's the writers of the essays in this anthology, not the collector of those essays that should be celebrated. I want to have faith that the women who lived and wrote these incredible stories are not forgotten. That being said, I fear these inmates have been outshined by flashier versions of their tales. Everyone should get themselves a copy of this book and bear witness to what they've endured, the mistakes they've made and how they've served their time.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I love writing the gives me a perspective on a life I have never experienced, and this was wonderful for that. Some of the pieces were too short for me to actually feel connected to them, but most were the perfect length. I got insight into the reasons women find themselves as prisoners and some of the realities of prison life for these women. There was a lot I didn't know or realize about prison life, and it was interesting to learn the things these women now take as standard parts of their live I love writing the gives me a perspective on a life I have never experienced, and this was wonderful for that. Some of the pieces were too short for me to actually feel connected to them, but most were the perfect length. I got insight into the reasons women find themselves as prisoners and some of the realities of prison life for these women. There was a lot I didn't know or realize about prison life, and it was interesting to learn the things these women now take as standard parts of their lives. I wish the ebook had done a better job of explaining that there were biographies of each woman at the end of the book. I found myself having troubling connecting each writer to her story. I could remember repeating names as authors, but couldn't remember what their other story was. If those bios had been at the beginning of the book, or possibly at the end of each story, it would have helped to connect more. The story that did add a follow up notation at the end was one of the most memorable for me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Victor Carson

    Wally Lamb is one of my favorite authors. I also admire his work teaching creative writing at York Correctional Prison for Women in Niantic, Connecticut. The talent he uncovers and the lives he rescues from oblivion renews my faith in the strength of human character. This selection of essays, poetry, and memoirs reveals self-awareness and clarity of expression - and a lot of effort on the part of both the individual contributors and Wally Lamb.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Monica

    Not quite as impressive as "Couldn't Keep It To Myself" but definitely still powerful and meaningful. This book is probably excellent on it's own but having just recently finished the first publication by Wally Lamb and the Women in his writing group, not sure that much could compare. I appreciated the organization of the book, the picture of the contributors (was sad that there weren't some included) and the biographies. Worthy read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I really enjoyed reading these testimonies. Thank you Wally for giving these women an outlet and for sharing. Thank you to the women who contributed for your vulnerability and willingness to share your experiences. I would highly recommend this to others, especially to those who have a hard time often understanding differing viewpoints and lives from their own. Very eye opening and well compiled.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mary Wagner Schnell

    Wally Lamb books give us an insight into the how and why's our sister's are in prison. When reading each story, I get more and more insight into lives of women who were raised much differently than I was. Some of the stories are painful to read, but well worth the effort. Brings much more understanding and compassion to those who are serving time in our jails and prisons.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Teddy Nykiel

    4.5 I was so impressed with the quality of these women’s writing, and entranced in their stories. This book made me better understand incarceration, and how trauma and cycles of abuse play out and often lead to it. It humanized prisoners in a way I hadn’t experienced before. I only saw a few episodes of Orange Is The New Black, but this reminded me of that.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Serendipity

    This features writing from women who took part in a writing programme at Connecticut’s York Correctional Institution. There were some powerful pieces in his compilation - accounts of horrendous childhoods, stories that highlighted the dehumanising nature of the prison system, sad stories of addiction, hopeful accounts of women determined to turn their lives around, and pieces that made me go WTF? I mean why would a woman with the mental age of a child be held in a maximum security prison? A reve This features writing from women who took part in a writing programme at Connecticut’s York Correctional Institution. There were some powerful pieces in his compilation - accounts of horrendous childhoods, stories that highlighted the dehumanising nature of the prison system, sad stories of addiction, hopeful accounts of women determined to turn their lives around, and pieces that made me go WTF? I mean why would a woman with the mental age of a child be held in a maximum security prison? A revealing look at a world I hope never to inhabit.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    The essays reveal such hard times in these women's lives and emotionally hard to read at times. But they are also very well written. There is at least one story that had me laughing out loud. Yet more of them made me want to cry. I read this as part of the Read Harder Challenge and I am glad I did.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paula Yerke

    I absolutely loved this book because I found it so true to my experiences ministering to women in prison. I kept thinking I knew the authors of the stories. Ladies in prison are people like everyone else with stories to tell and hardships most of us can't fathom.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dorothywalkup

    The book was fairly interesting but not at all what I thought it would be. It was a series of short stories written by the women. It was not something that was difficult to set down.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I absolutely loved the first one, Couldn't Keep It to Myself. This one was harder to get into, I think mostly because the stories are a lot shorter so I wasn't getting as pulled in as with the first book. That said, I love what Wally Lamb, the other writing instructors and all of the students/inmates have done and continue to do, it's powerful and amazing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Heather Ciesiolka

    great read, very moving

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pam Oconnor

    I have enjoyed all of Wally Lambs books but I think his writing classes and what these incarcerated women gain from them must be his greatest accomplishment.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Terrie Montefusco

    Impressive I was impressed by the honesty and the intellect shown in the stories I read. At times I didn't want them to end.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Niles

    Liked Couldn’t Keep it to Myself much better. Feel like his first few books were the best. But I did like the Bios at the end. Still one of my favorite authors.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Just as good as the first collection of writings. I am so impressed with these ladies.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Connie

    The essays from the women of York Prison are haunting, intimate and sad expressions of their time before and during incarceration. I admire the dedication of Wally Lamb to this writing workshop at the prison, a selfless gift and an inspiration to those most in need of compassion and hope!

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