Women's Prison Book Project hosts a sale this weekend

Categories: Books
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Photo courtesy Women's Prison Book Project 
For 20 years, the Minneapolis-based Women's Prison Book Project (WPBP) has been providing reading material for women and trans inmates all over the country. Once a part of the former Arise! Bookstore, and now housed at Boneshaker Books, the group will hold its annual fundraiser book sale this weekend. Held across the street from Powderhorn Park during the art fair, the sale will include books from the project's library, all priced between $2 and $3, plus handmade jewelry and art by Megan Longo and Nicole Amaris of Wreckcycled.

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Photo courtesy Women's Prison Book Project 
Heidi Heise, who has been a part of the collective since 2003, says that every Sunday volunteers from the group spend three hours reading letters from women and trans individuals who are in prison, then assemble a package of books to send to them. The books are taken from WPBP's library, which are all donated. 

The books people ask for range from meditation and self-help to mysteries and romance. "We try to have a little bit of everything," she says, adding that there's also a high demand for dictionaries and math books. 

The volunteers aim to send out 120 packages a week, with each package containing three books. They are sent all over the country, a reach that's aided by a partnership with a similar group, called Chicago Books to Women in Prison (CBWP). Since CBWP 
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Photo courtesy Women's Prison Book Project 
started, the two groups divide up the country so that one groups sends to half the states and the other group sends to the other half.
 
If there's time, volunteers can write a note back to the recipients of the books, but Heise says that because of the sheer volume, that's not always possible. They do have a pen-pal project specifically for trans prisoners, however, called the Midwest Trans Prisoner Penpal Project. 

Heise started volunteering for WPBP while she was in college at Hamline University, based on a suggestion of one of her professors. "I liked how tangible it was," she says. "There was a physical thing that we were doing." 

People who are incarcerated often feel completely isolated, like "the rest of society has forgotten about them," she says. "We like to make sure they know that's not necessarily the case." 

WPBP holds two book sales a year, one in February at their annual pancake breakfast and one during the Powderhorn Art Fair. Books on sale will run the gamut, culled from the donated books in the project's collection. "We get so many books donated that we don't have space to keep them all," Heise says. The sale will include hardcover books, which most prisons won't allow to be sent to prisoners, as well as multiple copies of books that they have in stock. 

The sale will be held across the street on the southeast corner of Powderhorn Park at 3445 15th Ave. S. this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

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