Portuguese rights to sold to UFSC Publishing (Brazil)
Arresting Hope reminds us that prisons are not only places of punishment, marginalization, and trauma, but that they can also be places of hope, blessing even, where people with difficult lived experiences can begin to compose stories full of healing, anticipation, communication, education, connection, and community. The book tells a story about women in a provincial prison in Canada, about how creative leadership fostered opportunities for transformation and hope, and about how engaging in research and writing contributed to healing.
The book includes poetry, stories, letters, interviews, fragments of conversations, reflections, memories, quotations, journal entries, creative nonfiction, and scholarly research. Out of multiple and diverse possibilities involving many people, Arresting Hope is focused on five women—a prison doctor, a prison warden, a prison recreation therapist, a prison educator, and a prison inmate—and their stories of grief, desire, and hope.
An Invitation to Readers
Babies in Prison
Participatory Health Research
Stories of Transformation
This book tells a story about women in a provincial prison in Canada, about how creative leadership fostered opportunities for transformation and hope, and about how engaging in research and writing contributed to healing. The book involves many people, but it is focused on five remarkable women: a doctor, a warden, a recreation therapist, an educator, and an inmate. Christina Baldwin claimed that “story heals” (42). As a collective of four co-editors, we all share the conviction that we need to tell more stories. We agree with Baldwin that “when we live in a family, a community, a country where we know each other’s true stories, we remember our capacity to lean in and love each other into wholeness” (18). In order to learn to live together in the ways of connection, hope, and generosity, we must narrate our lives, and we must hear the stories of others. Together, we break silences, tell the truths of our lives, and learn how to listen to the stories of others as a commitment to living with healing and wellness.
While stories are personal, individual, and subjective, the personal is also universal. Our personal stories are connected to history. We are all inextricably and integrally connected as human beings. So, when we tell our stories to others, and when we listen to others tell us their stories, we discover that we are all searching for belonging, for home, for community. Parker Palmer claimed that while our culture “separates inner from outer, private from public, personal from professional” (47), “we all live on the Möbius strip” where “there is no ‘inside’ and ‘outside’” (47). According to Palmer, “we are continually engaged in the evolution of self and world—and we have the power to choose, moment by moment, between that which gives life and that which deals death” (48).
Arresting Hope is a unique book for many reasons, but especially because of the way in which the story of the prison is narrated. In social science research, narrative inquiry typically involves three principal dynamics: story, interpretation, and discourse. Story is what happened. Therefore, story can be researched by asking the journalist’s questions: who? what? when? where? why? how? Interpretation addresses the basic question of so what? In other words, what is the significance of the story? In much social science research, the question of interpretation is often cast as the most important question because so much social science research is about conclusions and implications. The social scientist always asks: What does all this mean for practice and policy? But instead of emphasizing story or interpretation, we emphasize the third dynamic of narrative inquiry. Discourse is about how we tell the story. Discourse refers to the rhetoric of storytelling, the art and science of shaping and constructing a story for communicating to others (Leggo; Chatman).
The purpose of telling our stories is to tell them in ways that open up new possibilities for understanding, wisdom, and transformation. So, our stories need to be told in ways that arrest attention, that call out, that startle, so that we attend to our stories and the stories of others with renewed focus. It is not enough to just tell our stories. We need to learn to tell them in creative ways. This is the heart of story-making and narrative inquiry.
Arresting Hope includes poetry, stories, letters, interviews, fragments of conversations, reflections, memories, quotations, journal entries, creative nonfiction, and scholarly research. Telling the whole story of the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women is an impossibility, simply because there are so many stories lived by so many people. Out of the multiple and diverse possibilities, we are narrating the stories of a group of women who gathered to teach one another, and to share their stories of grief, desire, and hope.
Arresting Hope narrates a complex story with many lines of connection, and it narrates this complex story in a diverse range of texts like fragments of an immense story. Jean Baudrillard noted that “fragmentary writing is, ultimately, democratic writing. Each fragment enjoys an equal distinction” (8). But we also contend that fragmentary writing invites dialogue and imaginative engagement by readers. Instead of attempting to tell the whole story or even a seamless story with a clear and coherent chronology, we invite readers to linger with the fragments, to attend to the composition of the fragments as artistic renderings that evoke and provoke. Arresting Hope does not present a linear and straightforward narrative. Instead, it narrates the tangled chaos of lived experience by presenting a complex network of images and stories that evoke an understanding of people and their hopes and desires. By attending to the story as “an archipelago of fragments” (Paz 26), we grow more and more interested in what is not said, the pauses and spaces and gaps, the traces and echoes, the detours and diversions.
Richard Miller declared: “This is my story. But it is not my story only” (176). Arresting Hope is an exemplar of transdisciplinary research. Patricia Leavy noted that transdisciplinarity provides a significant way for researchers “to seriously engage with the major issues and problems of our time” by pooling “our resources in the service of addressing complex contemporary problems” (8). Leavy defined transdisciplinarity as “an approach to conducting social research that involves synergistic collaboration between two or more disciplines with high levels of integration between the disciplinary sets of knowledge” (9). Arresting Hope involves many people who work across disciplinary boundaries, and who are learning from and listening to one another.
Walter Brueggemann claimed that “human transformative activity depends upon a transformed imagination” (xx). And imagination is integrally connected to language and recognizing “how singularly words, speech, language, and phrase shape consciousness and define reality” (64). Transformation, both personal and political, individual and cultural, depends on remembering and hoping. We need to grieve with compassion and empathy, question with critical energy, and examine creative possibilities with passion and hope. Brueggemann wrote, “the evocation of an alternative reality” involves the creation of “a new rhetoric” (18). Brueggemann called for more poetry, more stories, more imagination:
The prophet engages in futuring fantasy. The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. (40)
Arresting Hope is a testimony to what is possible when a community of people engage together in imagining alternative possibilities.
As Brueggemann recognized, “speech about hope cannot be explanatory and scientifically argumentative; rather, it must be lyrical in the sense that it touches the hopeless person at many different points” (65). In Arresting Hope, we present many voices and write in hopeful ways in order to sustain hearts with abiding hope. We agree with Gregory Orr who testified convincingly to “the survival function of story-making: it helps us to live” (21).
Like Miller, we pursue writing that fosters “a kind of critical optimism that is able to transform idle feelings of hope into viable plans for sustainable action” (27). Miller argued for the value of writing that extends beyond the boundaries of traditional academic discourse, and called for “writing as a place where the personal and the academic, the private and the public, the individual and the institutional, are always inextricably interwoven” (31). Miller invited us to write in diverse ways so each of us can “locate one’s evolving narrative within a specific range of institutional contexts, shifting attention from the self to the nexus where the self and institution meet” (138). This is the goal of the kind of life writing that shapes Arresting Hope. By writing about the past, we make sense of the past while also generating “a sense of possibility, a sense that a better, brighter future is out there to be secured” (Miller 20).
Arresting Hope reminds us that prisons are not only places of punishment, marginalization, and trauma, but that they can also be places of hope, blessing even, where people with difficult lived experiences can begin to compose stories full of healing, anticipation, communication, education, connection, and community. We are not presenting a romantic or nostalgic version of the story of the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women. We are presenting a story that acknowledges pressing challenges, but we are also eager to present a testimony to how hopefulness is possible in prison. We promote hope because we have been arrested by hope’s possibilities
Arresting Hope is artistic, academic, and activist. With characteristic wisdom, JeanVanier asked:
Is this not the life undertaking of us all … to become human? It can be a long and sometimes painful process. It involves a growth to freedom, an opening up of our hearts to others, no longer hiding behind masks or behind the walls of fear and prejudice. It means discovering our common humanity. (1)
May we always be able to learn from and lean on one another.
Baldwin, Christina. Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story. Novato: New World Library, 2005.
Baudrillard, Jean. Fragments: Cool Memories iii, 1991-1995. Trans. Emily Agar. London: Verso, 1997.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Prophetic Imagination. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001.
Chatman, S. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978.
Leavy, Patricia. Essentials of Transdisciplinary Research: Using Problem-Centered Methodologies. Walnut Creek, ca: Left Coast Press, 2011.
Leggo, Carl. “Narrative Inquiry: Attending to the Art of Discourse.” Language &Literacy 10 (1) (2008): 1-21.
Miller, Richard E. Writing at the End of the World. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005.
Orr, Gregory. Poetry as Survival. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2002.
Palmer, Parker J. A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004.
Paz, Octavio. The Other Voice: Essays on Modern Poetry. Trans. Helen Lane. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990.
Vanier, Jean. Becoming Human. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1998.