A World Without Cages

A World Without Cages imagines the end of mass incarceration and migrant detention by bringing together the work of writers on the inside and on the outside. This project aims to nurture writers, activists, and intellectuals to dream new worlds beyond punishment, policing, surveillance, segregation, and exclusion.

The first three collections, published in 2018-2019, included work emerging out of AAWW’s Witness Program, a fellowship for 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.

It’s no wonder / that so very few / survive / the experience of being / cast out / into the blinding light.

Writers share the books they have turned to when imagining a world without without cages

Why care so much for someone who hasn’t done the same for you? As a feminist offering to the project of abolition, Saidiya Hartman reflects, “Care is the antidote to violence.”

my fingers still remember the days-old-stubbles

I think of the warmth that had once existed under the covers in the narrow space between my parents.

Five essays in a new collection from A World Without Cages show us the creative work of movement building.

A visual and typographical essay on prison doulas’ community-care in the face of violence from carceral systems.

In Part Two of a discussion on South Asian diasporic organizing in the movement for abolition, Mon M. and Sharmin Hossain reflect on their histories and positionalities as South Asian abolitionists.

In Part One of a discussion on South Asian diasporic organizing in the movement for abolition, Mon M. shares three areas of critical work, storytelling, and action to undertake in solidarity with Black and Dalit liberation struggles.

I miss my home. Although I’ve never seen where it is, I close my eyes and picture every detail it contains.

I might do something dangerous in that state of mind.

In a new collection from A World Without Cages, seven writers reflect on building a different future while holding the weight of the past

Now sitting behind barbed wire, hugging his knees / looking at the sky, the earth, the clouds / a bird’s wing like a far-fetched dream.

My Name is Chino
By Hoàng Vu Tran

In the Texas prison system, my name is Chino. You will not know who I am unless you are immediate family or one of my few friends.

Two women write about imprisonment, one from the outside and one from the inside.

Imagine the tens of millions of years that American prisons have stolen, woven back into society.

“The very moment I thought I was lost / My dungeon shook and the chains fell off.”

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.

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.

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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