I’ve been making sense of the world through story ever since I was a child, first through the books I read, and then through the poetry and the stories I wrote.
All through my adolescent years and the betrayals and growing pains of high school, during the harsh realities of life and death I first encountered in nursing school, and especially in the wake of my father’s early death and the tragic death of my first husband, writing was my salvation and my lifeline.
Deborah Tobola has lived her life around this belief, taking poetry and drama and music into the dark space of a men’s prison. As we discussed during our interview, art gave these men a voice where they had been silenced. It humanized them in a system built to punish and dehumanize.
Her memoir, Hummingbird in Underworld, recounts the life events that led to her work in prisons, intermingled with stories of the work that she did there and the men whose lives she touched.