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Notes from the Field

Anchor. May 2019. 176p. ISBN 9780525564591. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780525564607. DRAMA
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Actress, playwright, and activist Smith (three-time Obie Award winner, recipient of National Humanities Medal) wrote this work, which was staged in New York in 2016 and adapted into a feature film by HBO in 2018, as a result of a series of solo dramas created over a period of four decades and extensive travels throughout the United States. Each text, spoken by a character based on an actual person, directly or indirectly addresses a system that pushes students of color out of the classroom and into U.S. prisons, the so-called school-to-prison-pipeline. Smith interviewed some 250 people, and the voices selected reflect a variety of individuals caught up in the injustice. The book opens with a monolog by Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and closes with Congressman John Lewis. All of the pieces were originally performed by Smith and are meant to elicit awareness as well as anger at a system in which "rich kids get mischief, poor kids get pathologized and incarcerated."
VERDICT Creative and highly thought-provoking, this work should be read not only by those who wish to perform the monologs but by anyone seeking to understand an increasingly frightening and pervasive social ill.

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