Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time by Susan Madden Lankford
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I read an article about Madden Lankford in the San Diego Union Tribune that described her as a photographer. She's published three books, and I thought her subject matter sounded interesting. So, I checked her first book, Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes, out from the library.
I would not describe this book as a book of photographs. It does have a lot of photographs, but it also has a lot of dialogue with the inmates, guards, councilors, and others. The book follows too many inmates, and it is hard for me to keep their stories straight. Also, a lot of the dialogue feels like I've entered the conversation in the middle.
I think this book would have been better as a documentary, or if it had just followed one inmate. Or, for example, there's an inmate on trial for murder, but there are a few other people associated with the murder. In this book, you only learn of the one inmate's perspective. It might have been more interesting to learn about the event from the perspectives of the other suspects, as well as the homicide officer, and other parties involved in the crime.
I skimmed the last half of the book, mostly because I was curious as to how this would wrap up/if there was going to be a call to action. The book ends by discussing how women in prison are sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy. The women are abused/neglected as children, so they turn to a life of crime, they become mothers themselves, they don't know how to raise kids, their kids go through the same cycle and it becomes perpetuating.
There isn't really a call to action other than to state that the current criminal justice system isn't serving to help these women, and that money might be better spent training more councilors, etc to work with these people and their children.
Honestly, it's a depressing subject matter and the book doesn't do anything to inspire me to help.
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