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Testimonials

From People & Stories / Gente y Cuentos participants:

“In a People & Stories session, we are physically here [in prison] but mentally elsewhere–feeling different things, smelling the scent of a memory, feeling a touch, seeing the scene described by the author.”

“An interesting story keeps our attention, and aloneness simply disappears because the story turns into our friend and companion.”

“I loved the stories and I loved the discussions.  I learned to really pay attention to the specifically chosen words in short stories because short stories are compact–the words are chosen very carefully.”
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“It’s added so much to my life. It really scratches an itch for me – to have a place to talk about things in such a deep way.”“I like how this story really appeals to all the senses. You have the traces of soil, which is smell and touch; the ‘choo-choo-chooing’ of the trains; the visual descriptions of the shutters, her family, everything; the sweat on the landlord.”

“I might’ve had preconceived notions about everyone there including myself, but now I know that the world is not all bad. I’m learning to see the good in people, as opposed to expecting the worst.”

“People & Stories has greatly increased my appreciation of, and respect for, the literature of authors of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.  Diversity can be the source of real learning power and helps to create a deeper and better understanding and respect for our brothers and sisters.”

“The program helped me liberate myself; before I was afraid to speak with other people, not anymore!”

“My most memorable moment was when we read a sad story by the name “The Shawl” by Louise Erdrich.  It was like staring back in time.  The story allowed me to look at incidents from a different perspective because I was able to identify with the character in the story.”

“I love the interaction of individuals, all strangers listening to one another and respecting one’s opinion.  I love the sessions; it brings men [at “Operation Fatherhood,” Trenton New Jersey] together helping the young and the old.”

“What meant the most to me was someone finally allowed you to express the way you feel about things and how you could relate to a story and there is no wrong answer.”

“I never had bedtime stories read to me, not as a child, nor as a teen, nor as an adult– until a People & Stories class.  My mind began to wonder how much have I missed out on by not being read to and then I also began to wonder–how much had my children missed out on by not having no one read to them?  One thing I chose to resolve, I will read to my four grandchildren upon my eventual release.  I will give to them what People & Stories gave to me–a sense that I too matter, I too am important, I too am cared about by someone.”

“When I was at Interim House before, I loved this group because it helped me comprehend reading more. Now I’m getting my GED and I’m really trying to understand poetry.”

From Crossing Borders participants:

“I am always struck by what a radical medium literature is for opening up different points of view.  This was especially apparent for me during the music/poetry session.  Words and  music become a way to challenge assumptions about how we interpret and view the world.”

“People are much more perceptive and involved than I expected.  People in incarceration are far less angry and bitter than I expected.”

“The stories we read are really open-ended and you see the ways that individuals connect to the story can be very different.  This is a rich experience. We share thoughts and form friendships.”
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“I love the chance to read tremendous literature and share ideas with others!”

“It is always a surprise the many things that are shared in this group.”

“We all have universality of emotions; we all have reactions to loss, pain and happiness, but we all have different experiences with them and through People & Stories, we recognize that.”

From People & Stories / Gente y Cuentos coordinators:

“At this point there is no way back ever. The group wants to hear more stories and we are already planning to continue meeting and reading. Some of them never have time to read at home and some do not feel capable of reading by themselves. The stories have become an important part of their lives.”Gente y Cuentos coordinator

“I found people in my group opening up to each other in a relaxed, non-judgmental manner.  A number of the women remarked that they had had preconceptions about each other going into the sessions and that some of those preconceptions were challenged as they talked more with each other and got to know things they never would have guessed about each others’ lives.  In addition to the stories we read, we have each others’ lives as ongoing narratives, and I think we are always surprised when we realized that the stories of everyone sitting next to us are just as complex and rich as our own life story!” – Re-entry (women) coordinator

“Perhaps the most exciting element I have encountered in my sessions is the fact that P&S/GyC resonates in the deepest levels of the participants’ experience.  This brings not only self-awareness and confidence, but a holistic sense of well-being. Participants express this in their request for the programs to last forever.” – Gente y Cuentos program coordinator
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“In a world where too many of our children are lost, [P&S] has found a way to give these young ladies a voice. It has become part of a process to build self-esteem and self-worth in a group of teens who most desperately need validation.”Youth program coordinator

“I was worried that the group might not find much to connect to in the story, or they might be put off by some of the Russian words or names. However, the discussion was very lively. It felt like everyone had some story to relate to it from their personal experience. The rich descriptive language of the story really appealed to the whole group, and several members said they would like to read more by Lara Vapnyar”.Senior program coordinator

I am constantly amazed at the intelligence and insight brought to our discussions of short stories by these men whose backgrounds (for the most part) are short on formal education but long on difficult life experiences.  There is camaraderie present in each session, along with openness and honesty, a true appreciation for each individual, good humor, and enjoyment of the literature.  Through short stories, these groups form a bond, a sense of the worth and equality of each individual, and a sense of belonging to a greater group of humans who all want to be respected, appreciated, and wanted.  Being greeted by former participants when arriving at the Rescue Mission is a delight and testament to the uplifting quality of the program.” – Re-entry (men) program coordinator

“Many of the participants in the sites where I have coordinated have never been read to, but they do come from communities where oral history, knowledge of the Bible, legends, and stories are part of their cultural background. Our program has opened for them the opportunity to enter the world of Spanish literature.”Gente y Cuentos coordinator

From Site Staff:

“The students were more interested in reading as a result of People & Stories… The students would often engage in conversation beyond the session about what was read.”Youth alternative education academic success director

“This program is not like their regular programming… It gives the residents a means of communicating.”Re-entry GED teacher

“This program is POWERFUL!!!! We have gained incredible community connections and partnerships with this program and the influence on teens’ lives is dramatic. The individual stories are amazing. Every month I look forward to program reports. This program is not only influencing teens but changing the lives and perceptions of our staff.”Community libraries director
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“The critical thinking strategies that People & Stories teaches has aided in our members passing the reading and writing component of the GED exam.”Youth alternative education director

“The facilitators did an amazing job of choosing stories that resonated with our parents and elicited honest conversations about relationships, aspirations, race, gender, and social justice. While the literature often highlighted complex topics, People & Stories staff members applied their experience by creating a leveled conversation that was supportive of the range of life experience, linguistic variation, and educational levels within our parent body. Our parents shared emotional stories of love, loss, culture, and achievement — authentic testimonials that, ultimately, created strong bonds that provided a strong foundation for the school community we currently enjoy.”Head of school, urban independent school

“People & Stories is a well-developed, intentional program that allows individuals to self-identify while learning simultaneously. The growth and impact reverberate across generations, forcing individuals to think critically, interpret literature without hesitation of opinion of judgment, and increases literacy levels at the same time. This type of engagement and learning lends to individuals becoming more comfortable with who they are, what they think and to realize they do matter.”New immigrant resource center program coordinator

From Authors:

“Thank you for sending me information from People & Stories. I think what you are doing is absolutely wonderful… I live in an undereducated community where even our adults do not know they are hungry for stories. So I am grateful to you and wish you were here working!” – Linda Hogan, whose short story, “Making Do,” is included in our bibliography