Written by Nikki Pope
Today was World Book Day. I finished reading one book and started reading another. We also started on our next Pruno book project – a collection of poems. This while Courtney and I are working on a collection of our own short stories. I’m pretty sure we’ll be done with the short stories before we finish the poetry collection, mostly because we cannot control what poems are received and when.
I read a lot and I didn’t know today was World Book Day until I tried to figure out when National Book Day was (it was in January). Everyone was all over Earth Day, yesterday. Scientists were marching everywhere. I forgot about that for a hot minute until I tried to drive home (I live in a big city) and found myself rerouted around men, women, and children marching for science. I wanted to get out of my car and march with them, but I had to get my frozen food into the freezer. I could join them after I did that. Sure I could. Or I could join them in spirit, which is what I did because The Chemist was burning a hole in my bedside table. I had to know how it all ends, even though I was pretty sure how it would all end because Stephanie Meyer is nothing if not predictable. Don’t get me wrong, it was a page turner and an interesting premise. I’m pretty sure someone will make it into a movie. On to Carve, the first book in a new series by Veronica Roth (Divergent). I have greater expectations of this one. But I digress.
We are trying everything we can think of to get the word out on wrongful conviction. Awareness isn’t all we’re after though. We want to help our friends who are fighting to regain the lives that were so unjustly taken from them. One of our friends was in prison for 20 years. He went in as a young man of 20 and his body was much older than his 40 years at release. That was almost six years ago. When we talk, our conversation is the same as any conversation between two middle-aged people, except with an edge. When I talk about retirement, I’m looking forward to the day, just a few years from now, when I can focus on writing and traveling and learning as much as I can about, well, everything. When my friend talks about retirement he laments the fact that he may never retire. You see, during those 20 years in prison, when I was contributing to my social security fund, my friend was making sure he stayed alive. If he worked in prison, he only made a few cents an hour and there was no 401(k) plan.
Another of my friends was lucky enough to have someone take her in when she was released from prison. Her family was all gone, died while she was in prison. She’s one of the lucky ones, but her luck is going to run out because her benefactor is elderly and when she dies, her children are going to sell the house and my friend will be looking for a place to stay. We’re hoping to find something for her soon so it’s not a mad scramble at the last minute.
What does any of this have to do with World Book Day? Pruno, Ramen, and a Side of Hope: Stories of Surviving Wrongful Conviction is a book that can make a difference in so many ways. Everyone who buys a book contributes to the financial well-being of the exoneree storytellers who share in the royalties. Everyone who reads Pruno learns about wrongful conviction and can share their knowledge with others. They can advocate for improvements to our criminal justice system and volunteer with their local innocence project.