A World Without Cages

A World Without Cages explores the literature of mass incarceration and migrant detention by bringing together the work of writers on the inside and on the outside. The project includes the Witness Program, which empowers writers of color to witness and write about mass incarceration through site visits, meetings with those directly affected by incarceration and detention, and ongoing correspondence. A World Without Cages aims to nurture writers, activists, and intellectuals so they can dream a new American mythology beyond segregation, immigrant exclusion, and Islamophobia.

As a historian and musician, Julian Saporiti has toured past and present sites of migrant detention. He calls his project No-No Boy.

Earlier this year, Penguin released a competing edition of John Okada’s 1957 novel No-No Boy, claiming that it was in the public domain. They didn’t grasp how the history of the novel’s publication is as important as the novel.

John Okada deserves credit for framing his book around the character of a resister—but he missed the opportunity to portray the depth and breadth of principled protest by incarcerated Japanese Americans.

In 2019, No-No Boy is bigger than it’s ever been. But the book that was saved was always haunted by the books that were lost.

We’re proud to announce a new program that empowers writers of color to witness and write about mass incarceration.

52 years since it was first published, the groundbreaking novel No-No Boy has been reissued by Penguin Classics. The new edition features an introduction by Karen Tei Yamashita.

In a new portfolio from A World Without Cages, eight incarcerated writers explore the underworld.

if only we could learn / to stop // looking back / for each other.

On Asian Shame
By Franklin Lee

I am buried by my own guilt and shame for a crime that impacted the victim, my family, and my community.

Residence of a Sleepless Dream
By Bartholomew Crawford

I reside in purgatory awaiting judgment. A seven-level structure, seven stories of nothing.

Buddha in the Prison Yard
By Arthur Longworth

The Buddha has been in this prison for as long as any of us can remember. He has always been here, watching over our Sangha meetings, sitting with us in practice.

Drop a Kite
By Fong Lee

Sometimes you wonder if there really is a place called heaven nearby. You will ask yourself which would be better: Death? Or 38 years in prison?

Dao Xiong writes to Axxel Xiong from inside a Minnesota prison.

Chinese Laundry
By M. Monsuri

In prison, most relationships are transactional. Rey, for some reason, shows love to everyone on the cellblock.

each maple and golden locust / weighs heavy with coverings of Christian / white snow concealing / impurities of earthen made bark

A Sikh American law student writes about working with detained Sikh migrants.

In five works from our initiative A World Without Cages, writers witness life inside.

Autumn in Prison
By Connie Leung

but your leaves are changing in here / as all the fallen do

How might a children’s book explain prison abolition?

I often ask myself what I am learning or bearing witness to by being here. What is in front of me and why. I frequently have no answers to my questions.

In 2017, we stop a deportation flight to Cambodia with thirty fathers, brothers, and sons on board. A few months later, many of them are deported anyway.

Security
By Leigh Sugar

what I don’t get is why / you choose to come here

To launch our initiative A World Without Cages, we consider the literature of incarceration with writers like Brandon Shimoda, Nina Sharma, and Zaina Alsous.

We’re looking for creative work about life in jail, prison, and immigrant detention.

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