On Why World Book Night Rules (and Other Things)

Well, hello there. Long time no see.

First off, I want to explain my semi-absence from blogging and tweeting (and, some weeks, even reading *sob*), and it can be summed up in one word: school. Between dealing with life stuff and being a student and being an instructor, I have had almost no life this month. This month has also brought the slow and painful death of the seventeen-year-old car I’ve had since my senior year of high school (holy shit I’m old!), and the complete annihilation of my savings account — goodbye, summer school…I’m still bitter — in order to buy a replacement car.

So, yeah. April.

On the way to the Port Isabel Detention Center

But my bright spot in April = pretty much all of last week. April 23 was World Book Night 2013. I participated last year and gave away La Breve y Maravillosa Vida de Óscar Wao to immigrants at the Port Isabel Detention Center; in doing so, I learned about the extremely high need for books in foreign languages (especially Spanish) at such detention centers. They usually get English book donations, but most of the population doesn’t speak English.

White and gray cat curled up with La Casa En Mango Street

I was chosen as a book giver again this year, and I was psyched because 1) getting to give away free books is awesome; 2) once again, one of my favorite authors in the whole world was on the list, and 3) that author’s book was one of two WBN selections being offered in Spanish. So of course, I went right on back to the Port Isabel Detention Center with my copies of La Casa En Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. The detention center houses adults and youth, so my fingers are crossed that the books will fall into the hands of the teens there because it’s such a great book.

Hold that thought, because I’ll come back to World Book Night in a second.

Fancypants award

This past Sunday I was up in Austin participating in the National Abortion Access Bowl-A-Thon (which *ahem* you can still donate to). My team, The Bridesmaids, represented South Texas. We all wore bridesmaid dresses. In fact, the husband of one of my teammates wore a bridesmaid dress as well (I repeat: Frank, you are a badass)! We were so awesome that we won the Fancypants award (best costumes). The best part is that Austin raised over $30,000 for Lilith Fund, which gives financial assistance to low-income women who need abortions. Almost $1,500 of that came from our team (though you can help make it an even $1,500 by, like, donating. 😉 And if you’ve already donated, thank you thank you thank you!)

The Bowl-A-Thon was my excuse to spend a few days up in Austin. I took off after work on Thursday in order to get there by the evening because I wanted to finally volunteer with the Inside Books Project, which sends books to Texas prisoners. I’ve dropped off book donations to them before on previous trips to Austin, but I’m never in Austin on their volunteer nights.

I took three boxes of books with me to donate (that’s where a lot of my ARCs go when I’m done with them) and volunteered for three hours on Thursday and about an hour and a half on Sunday. Volunteers answer prisoners’ letters, which can range from specific (“Do you have [title] by [author]?”) to broad (“I like romance novels”) to completely open to anything we sent them. I came across a few that were just writing to thank the IBP for previous packages and a couple that didn’t have any requests at all and just wanted to write to someone. The IBP has a great selection of books in some areas, and a not-so-great in others (foreign language books, books about specific trades like welding, etc). A big problem is that those books are in such high demand that whatever they do have just flies off the shelves.

But there, sitting on the shelves and interspersed in different areas like “Native American Literature” and “African American Literature,” were a bunch of books from World Book Night 2012!

I love donating my WBN books to detained immigrants because of the high need and the fact that people detained there don’t typically get prison book projects like this shipping books to them. My only regret is how impersonal it is: I drive up to the gate, jump through security hurdles, then walk up to the lobby and hand over my books to be examined, x-rayed, and taken away to the library. I have no heartwarming stories to share on Twitter come April 23, but that’s okay.

So when I started answering prisoners’ letters and trying to match them up with books that fit their needs or desires, I was so freaking excited to see all those WBN 2012 books, many of which I’ve read and thus could include little notes about the book in my responses. Of course, I also chose a ton of other books off the shelves, but it made me so happy to pull copies of Kindred or The Kite Runner or The Hunger Games or The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian off the shelves and know — just know — that the people on the receiving end would love the book. I wasn’t handling the Spanish letters, but it also made me happy to see the Spanish translations of Oscar Wao — one of the few Spanish selections even available — being sent to people. Who knows…maybe the next time I volunteer, maybe a bunch of the leftover books from World Book Night 2013 will be available too!

4 thoughts on “On Why World Book Night Rules (and Other Things)

  1. I wonder if there is a books for prisoners program here in Michigan. I would love to donate my books there, instead of just taking them to the Salvation Army or library for book sales. It just seems like the books would be much more loved in the prison program.

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