Creative Writing from California’s Lancaster Prison
Edited by Kenneth E. Hartman and Luis J. Rodríguez
Funded by the Arts for Justice Fund, this anthology features writings from one of California’s high-security prisons through the Trauma to Transformation Program of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore. Tia Chucha Press’s founding editor Luis J. Rodriguez and formerly incarcerated writer Kenneth E. Hartman, have selected these poems and personal essays from creative writing classes taught by Rodriguez through the Alliance for California Traditional Arts. They are authentic shaping from materials mined from the depths of familial, racial, and economic violence. They are imaginings for how to address trouble and crime without punishment, dehumanization, and violence in return. Here’s restorative/transformative justice in action. Here’s redemption in the flesh. Here are the voices and viewpoints needed for a just and equitable world for all.
Convicted of murder at 19, Kenneth E. Hartman was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. After serving 38 years, former California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. commuted his sentence and Hartman was paroled in 2017. He’s presently a freelance writer who’s also working as a development coordinator and prison programs specialist for a Los Angeles-area nonprofit involved in prison rehabilitation programs. His 2009 memoir Mother California: A Story of Redemption Behind Bars won the 2010 Eric Hoffer Award. Hartman edited Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough, a collection of prisoner writings about life without the possibility of parole sentences, winner of a 2014 Independent Publisher Book Award. His work has appeared in the New York Times and Harper’s.
For 40 years Luis J. Rodriguez has taught creative writing as well as conducted poetry readings, lectures, and healing circles in prisons, juvenile lockups, and jails throughout the United States, Mexico, Central America, South America, and Europe. He’s the founding editor of Tia Chucha Press and co-founder of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in the San Fernando Valley section of Los Angeles. He has 15 books in poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction, including the best-selling memoir “Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.”
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