Today I have a review of Hummingbird in Underworld by Deborah Tobola, available from She Writes Press on July 23, 2019! Thank you to Caitlin Hamilton Marketing and Publicity for the invitation to review!
Hummingbird in Underworld is a slim memoir about Deborah Tobola’s experiences teaching in a men’s prison.
Deborah begins this new job in her old hometown. Her father worked in the same prison. She’s teaching creative writing and managing the prison’s art program.
Deborah is forthright with what she finds and all she learns. The bureaucracy and politics of what should happen versus what actually happens in the prison are a constant battle. She writes about some of the men she meets in the prison. Their stories are endearing and powerful.
The book alternates between Tobola’s life story and her experience in the prison. I found Hummingbird in Underworld memorable, enlightening, and disarming. It’s not something we think about often- what daily life is like inside a prison. I’m grateful for Deborah’s insight and important work.
I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
About the Book:
At the age of forty-five, Deborah Tobola returns to her birthplace, San Luis Obispo, to work in the very prison her father worked in when he was a student at Cal Poly. But she’s not wearing a uniform as he did; she’s there to teach creative writing and manage the prison’s arts program–a dream job.
As she creates a theatre program for prisoners, Tobola finds plenty of drama off the stage as well. Inside the razor wire she finds a world frozen in the ’50s, with no contact with the outside except by telephone; officers who think prisoners don’t deserve programs; bureaucrats who want to cut arts funding; and inmates who steal, or worse. But she loves engaging prisoners in the arts and helping them discover their voices: men like Opie, the gentleman robber; Razor, the roughneck who subscribes to The New Yorker; charismatic Green Eyes, who really has blue eyes; Doo Wop, a singer known for the desserts he creates from prison fare.
Alternating between tales of creating drama in prison and Tobola’s own story, Hummingbird in Underworld takes readers on an unforgettable literary journey–one that is frank, funny, and fascinating.
Have you read Hummingbird in Underworld, or is it on your TBR? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR