Last week I had the chance to chat with Dr. Laura Bates, author of the Big Library Read title Shakespeare Saved my Life, via Twitter. Dr. Bates took some time out of her Friday to answer questions curated from readers from around the world. Below are some of the questions and answers. You can view the Twitter chat here and check out some of her extended answers to questions below!


Tell us your first memory of going to a library

Starting around age 5, I would walk 2 miles to the public library with my older sister, in hot summers and snowy winters…checking out as many books as I could carry (often MORE than I could carry). My interests were eclectic: travel, nature, literature. I was a “regular” in my elementary school library, as well. That’s where I checked out “Macbeth” at the age of 10. Of course, I couldn’t understand it; it was a foreign language to me, but looking back, I can see what a life-changing moment that was for me!  My parents, although they were immigrants, were book-lovers, and I inherited that trait.

If the roll was reversed would you feel comfortable w/ a significant other doing the work you do?
Great question! Actually, it was my husband who first introduced me to prison work, and he continues to lead programs there to this day. I feel not just ‘comfortable,’ but proud!
Of course, there are always concerns for the safety of your loved one, but I have more concerns when he is on the highway than inside a prison classroom. A volunteer is treated with respect by prisoners because they appreciate the giving of our time and the opportunity for education.

What has been your most rewarding moment of this program?
SO many!
One ‘moment’ was hearing the prisoners state that we had saved at least one victim’s life
One on-going ‘reward’ has been watching one prisoner, Larry Newton, return to life after more than a decade in solitary confinement. Of course, he is still doing life (life without parole), but at least now, and thanks to Shakespeare, he is LIVING.
He’s also being a positive role model and influence on others, inside and out of prison. So he continues to impact others directly, as well as indirectly through his story as told in my book.

What is your favorite Shakespeare piece?
Still “Macbeth”! Nearly 50 years after I first discovered it in the elementary school library, I continue to find new revelations in it, often because of the insights of my students – in prison and on campus. It happened again just yesterday!

What message do you hope readers take away of this book? 
I hope that it helps readers to see both Shakespeare and prisoners in new ways.
I hope it helps readers to consider their own personal “prisons.”
Ultimately, I hope it inspires others to engage in similar work: whether it is with Shakespeare or some other topic; whether it is with prisoners or some other population in need.

Adam Sockel is a Social Media Specialist with OverDrive. He now has a new appreciation for the Bard.