Book Review: Golden, R. (2005). War on the Family: Mothers in Prison and the Families They Leave Behind. New York: Routledge. pp. xxv, 190

AuthorJennifer Cobbina
Published date01 March 2008
Date01 March 2008
Subject MatterArticles
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Criminal Justice Review
book, she tells stories that encourage readers to support understanding and rehabilitation
rather than condemnation and retributive sentencing. She models such risk-taking through
personal disclosures of her own.
Walker’s book joins other prison-teaching memoirs such as Mark Salzman’s True
Notebooks: A Writer’s Year at Juvenile Hall, Jean Trounstine’s Shakespeare Behind Bars: The
Power of Drama in a Women’s Prison
, and Robert Gordon’s The Funhouse Mirror: Reflections
on Prison
in reflecting on the challenges and rewards of educating behind bars. Unlike
these texts, which focus on issues of language and identity, she focuses on parenting and
“reparenting,” the process of learning to care for oneself and create positive relationships
with family from behind bars. Teaching parenting is a particular challenge in prison, and
she demonstrates the long journey to developing trusting relationships with her students
through her own family disclosures and frank discussions of the myth of the perfect family.
(As she alludes, she also authored several curricular texts on parenting, including Parenting
from a Distance: Your Rights and Responsibilities
.) The book also serves as a call to action for
parenting and family studies educators as she enacts respectful and responsible treatment
for inmate students in a system that is darkly dehumanizing.
Although Dancing to the Concertina’s Tune does not engage postmodern issues of inter-
subjectivity as some other prison writers and teachers have done in recent years, the
strength of this book lies in Walker’s ability to offer readers a candid reflection on a career in
correctional education; her reflections on the progress of her students and their parenting
skills presented alongside the stark decline in funding for most opportunities for education
beyond the General Equivalency Diploma (GED) send a pointed message to both policy makers
and educators.
Tobi Jacobi
Colorado State University
Golden, R. (2005). ...

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