Praise for Dear Friends

“This collection reflects the deeply troubling times we live in, where we’ve so callously thrown away so many of our nation’s families. And it is an honest and careful and loving reflection, presenting the joys and pains and passions and losses and hopes and dashed dreams this era represents. This is a deeply human work. In a word, it is a gift.”
—Reuben Jonathan Miller, author of Halfway Home: Race, Punishment and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration

“I am left nearly speechless—just in total awe—by the wisdom and pathos that leap off of every page of this moving collection. An extraordinary window into a world of pain, hope, and, yes, wonder.”
—Julia Sweig, author of Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight

Dear Friends’ youth contributors understand the impact of mass incarceration and its collateral consequences on a cellular level. Their artwork, poetry, and stories offer a unique and relevant lens into a world that more of society must begin to care about if justice and equity are ideals we genuinely aspire to.”
—Sylvia A. Harvey, award-winning journalist and author of The Shadow System

“The personal stories of kids who’ve committed no crimes but have to face the punishment—fear, loss, loneliness, powerlessness, and rejection—have their experience amplified, and beyond that, their talent shines. The writer’s narrative, once silenced by shame and isolation, becomes urgent, surprising, and powerful on these pages. Dear Friends is a unique journey into understanding the compassion, the empathy, and the will we’ll need to rebuild both our youth and our prison system. I know I am forever changed by their stories.”
—Catherine Legge, writer, filmmaker, and Executive Producer of Original Video, CBC News/GEM

Dear Friends shakes my soul with the achingly lucid soul expressions of young people. With windows in their eyes and hearts, wide open (sometimes painfully), my, how they teach us. This book reminds me that nothing—certainly not the ills of society—is lost on the young, as we’d so desperately like to believe. But also in reading, I remember the power of a creative community as a safe haven and launch pad. This book reminds me to pay closer attention to wisdom across generations. Thank you for this and so much more, writers and artists of POPS the Club.”
—Caits Meissner, writer, artist, and Director of Prison and Justice Writing, PEN America

“POPS the Club creates a space that allows students to explore their trauma, their pain, and their resiliency through art. This organization does so much to destigmatize the shame of the carceral system and turn it into hope. I will forever consider myself a POPS club member, and I hope you will consider volunteering and donating after reading their eighth anthology, Dear Friends, a beautiful book.”
—Bernardo Cubría, screenwriter, playwright, and proud POPS volunteer

“We are the stories we tell about ourselves. The courage of the young artists of POPS the Club is on full display in this latest anthology of their work. I am overwhelmed by their honesty, hope, and humor. They have discovered their greatest power can be realized by standing vulnerably in the center of their own narratives and inspiring all of us to do the same.”
—Bill Thompson, Executive Director, Young Storytellers

“I’m always amazed by the exceptional writing that emerges from POPS clubs, and Dear Friends is no exception. This anthology is doing important work, giving voice to the lived experiences of those most directly impacted by the broken criminal justice system. But it’s also full of funny, fresh, and vibrant writing. The writing is both essential to read and fun to read.”
—Jeremy Robins, filmmaker and Executive Director, Echoes of Incarceration

Dear Friends continues the tradition of intense, honest, and thoughtful stories and artwork that make me pause, question my own thinking, and wonder how I can do more. More importantly, this book gives me reason to celebrate and appreciate the authors and artists. Dear Friends is a compelling and insightful resource for youth and their families who are dealing with incarceration and its impacts and for those who are supporting them.”
—Melissa Radcliff, Program Director, Our Children’s Place, Coastal Horizons Center

“The poems, stories, art, and photographs in this heartbreaking, insightful, and often humorous anthology are required reading for anyone looking to understand the personal impact of the prison system. The bravery, honesty, and wisdom of these young voices give me hope for our future.”
—Antonio Sacre, author, solo performer, and POPS teaching artist

“The writing in this anthology has so much power, it is as though the students are breathing it onto the page. POPS the Club is a gift to them, and they are a gift to all of us. I have worked with teens for the last forty years, so I know that clearly POPS is connecting with students and helping them connect with themselves in a profound way.”
—Laura Rocker MD, child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist

“The discovery of fire and hunger and resilience and courage where we might never have even thought to have looked—that’s what you’ll find in the pages of Dear Friends. And so much more.”
—Roland Tec, filmmaker, playwright, and founder of Hear Me Out Monologues

Dear Friends is a luminous collection of writing and a window into the very human experience of the teen members of POPS the Club. The pages are filled with vivid snapshots describing their reality and their complex inner lives. The writing is simultaneously exciting, wildly imaginative, moving, hopeful, innocent, blunt, and painful. These young people are an inspiration, and this anthology amplifies their voices—hopefully, the reach will be wide so that another teen who is experiencing the pain of the prison system can feel hope and less alone.”
—Tina Huang, actor and co–Artistic Director, Ammunition Theatre Company

“Creative expression is a gateway to empathy and community. POPS anthologies offer forums for our students to share their truths on their own terms through their art. The beauty, honesty, and raw sophistication of their poetry, prose, photography, and drawing/painting is a gift that can inspire societal change.”
—Tricia Nelson, creative director and POPS volunteer

“The wisdom of young people will amaze and inspire in POPS the Club’s latest anthology. Their work is a pointed reminder that every one of us deserves to stand boldly in our lived experiences. The young people of POPS the Club are more than an inspiration—they are incredible artists, thinkers, dreamers, and doers. Through community, POPS the Club combats shame, facilitates healing, and reduces the isolation that so many young people impacted by familial incarceration are forced to experience. As the work in the latest anthology shows, POPS is more than a club—it is a community committed to elevating and listening to the voices of young people who are far too often silenced.”
—Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, Executive Director, Ivy Street School, and former Senior Education Policy Advisor, Office of the Mayor, City of New York

“I’m always left speechless and in total awe by the POPS anthologies, and Dear Friends is no exception. The students of POPS remind us of the limitless power of art to heal and transform any dire situation into a source of hope, strength, and perseverance. I’m constantly astonished by their candor and ability to share their deepest fears and vulnerabilities. In a society where we’re bombarded with news articles detailing statistics and generalities related to mass incarceration, the POPS anthologies illustrate the visceral toll the problem has taken on countless youth across the country.”
—Michael Feldman, writer