FRESH AYERS: Sarah Shourd - "Hell Is a Very Small Place" - Bill Ayers

Friday, June 16, 2017 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Sarah Shourd

“For readers who have no sense of the nature of the punishment that is exacted in their name, this collection offers an unforgettable look at the peculiar horrors and humiliations involved in solitary confinement... It is difficult to read this book without feeling shame.” - Martin Garbus in the New York Review of Books

Sarah Shourd discusses Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement. She will be joined in conversation by Bill Ayers.

At 57th Street Books

RSVP HERE (Please note that your RSVP is requested, but not required)

About the book: On any given day in America, more than 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement—held in utter isolation for twenty-three or twenty-four hours a day, moved there from the general population without any legal process or justification. In a “potent cry of anguish from men and women buried way down in the hole” (Kirkus Reviews), Hell Is a Very Small Place offers rare accounts from the people who are now or have been in solitary confinement. As Chelsea Manning wrote from her own solitary confinement cell, “The personal accounts by prisoners are some of the most disturbing that I have ever read.”

These firsthand accounts are supplemented by the writing of noted experts exploring the psychological, legal, ethical, and political dimensions of solitary confinement, and a comprehensive introduction by Solitary Watch co-founders James Ridgeway and Jean Casella. Sarah Shourd, herself a survivor of more than a year of solitary confinement, writes eloquently in a preface about an experience that changed her life.

About the author: Sarah Shourd, is a writer, public speaker and educator based in Oakland, CA for over two decades. For the last five years, her work has focused on exposing the cruelty and overuse of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, which she views as a key component to ending mass incarceration. To this end, Shourd has traveled the country extensively as a public speaker and UC Berkeley Visiting Scholar; conducting over 75 interviews with prisoners in isolation across the country. Out of this extensive research emerged several works: The BOX, a play about solitary confinement (which premiered to sold out audiences at Z Space in San Francisco in July 2016, see; an anthology, Hell Is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement (2016, New Press); as well as numerous articles and op-eds (The New York Times, Mother Jones, CNN, Daily Beast, The San Francisco Chronicle, Reuters, SF Magazine and more). Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt published the memoir she co-authored about her own imprisonment, A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran, in 2011 (Shourd was held as a political hostage by the Iranian government from 2009 to 2010). Shourd was awarded the 2016 Community Hero Award by San Francisco's GLIDE Memorial Church and is now developing a podcast called Of Two Minds in her new position as a #LoveArmy Fellow at The Dream Corps. For more information see

About Bill Ayers: Bill Ayers is a social justice activist, teacher, Distinguished Professor of Education (retired) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and author of two memoirs, Fugitive Days and Public Enemy.

Event Location: 
57th Street Books
1301 E 57th St.
Chicago, IL 60637