“Couldn’t Keep It to Myself: Testimonies from Our Imprisoned Sisters”
Wally Lamb and the Women of York Correctional Institution
“‘What I hope is that people reading this book will bear in mind that we are human beings first, inmates second,'” wrote current inmate Bonnie Foreshaw in her subsection of “Couldn’t Keep it To Myself.” Perhaps you remember Wally Lamb from his national bestsellers, “She’s Come Undone” and “I Know this Much is True,” both part of Oprah’s Book Club. His 2003 release, “Couldn’t Keep It to Myself” has received less publicity, yet is just as enticing as his other two books. This anthology of 11 women at the York Correctional Institute in Connecticut is the aftermath of Lamb’s accepted invitation to teach a writing workshop at the prison due to cutbacks in educational and rehabilitative services.
All of these women give their own personal accounts of imprisonment through violent upbringings and lifestyles long before they were imprisoned by the criminal justice system. Through vivid descriptions of abuse, neglect and drug addiction, each woman’s section provides shockingly raw and cunning honesty. Although not all of the crimes these women committed are described in detail, their upbringings, home lives and relationships are, causing the reader to feel and perhaps even identify with the reasons behind their later criminal acts.
Meet Nancy Whiteley, a girl mourning the loss of her absent father while getting caught up in her own promiscuity and addiction. Meet Brenda Medini, a woman who got trapped into a gang-related killing that all began with a crush on “a dangerous boy named Manny.”
Bonnie Foreshaw’s section titled, “Faith, Power, and Pants” cleverly used her love for Jamaican music and food as a constant theme in identifying herself. She also explained how her belief in Rastafarianism resulted in discrimination while incarcerated, and how her strong faith caused her to take a stand.
With the workshop help and editing from Wally Lamb, these women found the courage within themselves to release their inner demons and expose them to the world. Upon finishing this anthology, readers may never look at an imprisoned woman the same way. Although this book is not for the faint at heart, filled with themes as harsh as incest, it is far more engrossing than any work of fiction could be.