In 2012, Free Minds was honored to host several guest authors at the DC Jail! Many of the 16- and 17-year-old members of the Book Club have never read a book before coming to the jail. It is incredibly powerful not only to be able to connect with a book for the first time, but to meet the author as well! We are grateful to the authors who demonstrate their dedication and generosity of spirit by joining us for one of our weekly Book Club meetings.

In August, professional basketball players Etan Thomas, Laron Profit, and Travis Garrison visited the jail to discuss Thomas’s book Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge, a collection of personal essays by celebrities chronicling their relationships with their fathers and their children. During this moving session, the Free Minds members and the three guests discussed struggles with their own fathers, how anyone can be a good parent regardless of the examples they had growing up, and how reading can change your life for the better. After the session, Thomas said, “Writing is just to be able to get your emotions and your frustrations out. Reading opens up your whole world to everything. I’ll be a supporter of Free Minds forever.” It was an inspirational day for all involved!

Erin Gruwell, author of The Freedom Writers Diary visited us at the DC Jail. She talked about her experience with teaching young people considered “unteachable,” and shared the stories of some of her students with the Book Club. The Free Minds members read their poems, and she was so moved that she asked them all for autographed copies! The session culminated in a “toast for change,” where the youths made toasts such as, “I never ever want to come back to jail” and “I want to graduate from college.” The youths truly connected with Erin Gruwell. Several of them couldn’t believe how much she sincerely cared about them even after knowing them for just a few hours. Erin Gruwell hopes to return to DC soon and looks forward to meeting and working with our members who are home in the community at an “On the Same Page” event.

In December, young adult author Walter Dean Myers visited the jail as well. His works such as Dope Sick, Lockdown, and Monster have been popular Book Club picks for years. In anticipation of his visit, the Book Club members read and discussed his memoir Bad Boy. Mr. Myers has been a long-time favorite of our readers, and they were thrilled to meet the bestselling author.

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