Friday, May 04, 2012

Behind Bars

It has been 1 year since I self-published Among Women and I decided, in honor of that anniversary, to offer the book for free download this weekend. From today, Friday, May 4th, to midnight Sunday, May 6th, Pacific Time, Among Women is available on Amazon and Smashwords for free.

The book is about a young woman who finds herself homeless in New Orleans and, just as she has worked herself into a position where she can move back into the regular world, is arrested and thrown in jail on a bogus charge. The woman they're looking for had been committing her crimes for years and Pearl Caldwell has only been in New Orleans for 6 weeks. She is sure she will be out in a few days, once the mistake is cleared up, but finds herself stuck in jail without a lawyer or visitors or anyone who knows she is there. She has to make the best of a bad situation, and it doesn't get much worse than being locked in with more than 50 criminals. She has to find a way out, but first she has to survive.  There are worse things that living among criminals, like having someone trying to kill you.

The book is based on fact with a healthy dose of fiction. So far, the reviews have been favorable with 4/5 stars, and for that I am grateful, but no one can review or even read the book if they don't know it exists, and that is what this weekend's promotion is all about -- getting the news out.

As I watched the numbers change and books being "sold" in the UK and Denmark, I thought about all the women behind bars, the ones I got to know and the ones currently either behind bars or in an oppressive society that counts them as nothing.

The movies like to portray women behind bars as sex hungry animals ready to stick a shiv in someone's back or hump the nearest cellmate or amoral guard to get a few privileges. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mostly, being in jail is boring and regimented and without much in the way of joy, outside of playing cards or just surviving from day to day. The worst part is that our own representatives are currently on a witch hunt here in the United States to minimalize and marginalize women even further. We might as well be wearing bourkahs and veils as Congress and legislators look for ways to take away our rights and control over our own bodies.

From the beginning of human existence, there have been women helping women to abort an unwanted child and to take care of each other. It was a woman's world where few men ever ventured because it was none of their business. Wise women, medicine women, helped women prone to miscarriage and giving birth to stillborn children to keep from getting pregnant. It was steeped in magic because they didn't understand how children were created and born, but it was also steeped in care and love for each other.

As civilization came into being and people began living in towns and cities, and men took over ruling everything, they looked at women and decided women were evil and must be controlled. After all, what is a women good for if she doesn't cook and take care of the home and hearth, and if she is unable to bear children, preferably sons? Women found ways around the strictures by ministering to each other, by talking and sharing their knowledge, giving aid and comfort wherever possible. But we live in an enlightened age where spouses and partners go into the delivery room to see and participate in the birth of their children. Men couldn't possibly underrate women. And yet they do.

In China, women are allowed to have 1 child. If the child is a girl, she is either killed or sent to an orphanage. Male children are valued, except how many males would be born if there were no females?

Here in the United States, legislation has been talked about and is going through the process to become law so that life begins at conception. A woman who has an abortion will be branded a murderer and I'm not sure what the law will say about stillborn children. Who will be to blame for that? Women, probably.

Women will be forced to carry children they don't want to full term with the excuse that there are thousands of families who can't have children ready to adopt those unwanted children. Can you say, baby factory? Sounds like a new twist on an old Johnathan Swift screed, A Modest Proposal. Women's bodies have now become the property of state and federal legislators high on organized religion and certain of their inalienable rights to determine the fate of another human being -- a female human being. They would never do this to a man. Men are far more valuable than women, in spite of the fact that men cannot procreate by themselves or give birth. They need women for that and they haven't figured out how to make the Ixian Axlotl tanks work, which are basically brain dead females that nothing more than mindless wombs. Sometimes it feels like that is how some men feel, that we are mindless wombs.

When women speak, men muzzle them, as they do in the Middle East and other countries where sharia law and strict Islam is taught. It doesn't matter that beneath their shapeless black prisons women are dressed as flamboyantly and beautifully as any model on a high fashion couture runway. They are still imprisoned and throwing them crumbs is not a substitute for equality and the right to speak their minds without fear of retribution -- and prison.

While I am not on board with feminism, except where it pertains to equal rights and equal pay, I do understand how being oppressed can make a woman mad enough to want to marginalize men as they have marginalized women for centuries -- for millennia. No one should be marginalized and no one should be forced into silence or imprisoned behind bars, no matter how comfortable and safe it seems.

And no one, man or woman, has to right to determine what a woman does with her own body, even if she decides to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. There is no way to save the unborn child without holding the unwilling mother hostage. It should be free will and free choice and yet the only ones exercising free will and free choice are determined to imprison those that stand against them, those that speak against them, those that choose a different path. 

Here I am, once again on my soapbox, off topic and into real world issues when all I wanted to do was let you know about a free book. A free ebook at least. A story of a woman imprisoned for something she had not done and forced to face herself and women she marginalized in her own mind because they were different, because they were criminals.

Pearl Caldwell was a prisoner of her upbringing made a prisoner by circumstance who found freedom in the company of criminals. That is the story behind Among Women and one I hope you will at least take a look at, read, and offer your comments and reviews. You can pick up a free copy of Among Women this weekend at for Kindle and Smashwords (use coupon CJ84D during checkout) for other e-readers. Find out what it's really like behind bars and meet Pearl Caldwell, a woman much stronger and more resilient that she knew.

You can also purchase print copies for $9.95.

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