Second in the series on African American’s Women Writing, this post is my own reflection and analysis of “Left Behind” by Chasity West, featured in the American Prison Writing Archive.
More narratively driven than many of the other pieces featured in the American Prison Writing Archive, West wrote dialogue that personalized and humanized the incarcerated women she wrote about. Themes of mental illness, suicide, rape, and violence are prominent features of West’s narrative, but the relationships between incarcerated women and their support systems in the face of rape and violence by prison guards stood out to me. In this narrative, West tells the story of a woman’s, suicide attempt and eventual death. Not only does West amplify the pain felt by the other women she was incarcerated with, but shows the ways in which prison policy (lockdowns, searches, etc) re traumatize already grieving women. There was no memorial service, no acknowledgement of the death, much less the cause. Only fear that other women would act out and speak up.