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Book Talk! Benjamin Weber’s AMERICAN PURGATORY

November 20, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Ben Weber discusses his new book AMERICAN PURGATORY with LA icon Luis J. Rodriguez


In this explosive new book, historian Benjamin Weber reveals how the story of American prisons is inextricably linked to the expansion of American power around the globe.

A vivid work of hidden history that spans the wars to subjugate Native Americans in the mid-nineteenth century, the conquest of the western territories, and the creation of an American empire in Panama, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, American Purgatory reveals how “prison imperialism”—the deliberate use of prisons to control restive, subject populations—is written into our national DNA, extending through to our modern era of mass incarceration. Weber also uncovers a surprisingly rich history of prison resistance, from the Seminole Chief Osceola to Assata Shakur—one that invites us to rethink the scope of America’s long freedom struggle.

Weber’s brilliantly documented text is supplemented by original maps highlighting the global geography of prison imperialism, as well as illustrations of key figures in this history by the celebrated artist Ayo Scott. For readers of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, here is a bold new effort to tell the full story of prisons and incarceration—at home and abroad—as well as a powerful future vision of a world without prisons.


Benjamin Weber is a historian and African American and African Studies professor at the University of California, Davis. He has worked at the Vera Institute of Justice, Alternate ROOTS, the Marcus Garvey and UNIA Papers Project, and as a public high school teacher in East Los Angeles, where he was named the NCSS Outstanding Teacher of the Year for the United States. The author of American Purgatory (The New Press), he lives in Davis, California.


Luis J. Rodriguez has been visiting prisons, jails, and juvenile lockups for readings, talks, healing circles, and creative writing workshops for over 40 years. He’s been a violence prevention and intervention expert in Los Angeles, Chicago, Mexico, and Central America. He’s also a renowned writer with 16 multi-genre books, including a bestselling memoir “Always Running.” He’s founding editor of Tia Chucha Press and co-founder of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore, based in the San Fernando Valley. His last poetry book was “Borrowed Bones” in 2016. Seven Stories Press in 2020 released his books of essays “From Our Land to Our Land.” In 2022, Luis received a California Arts Council Legacy Fellowship and the Los Angeles Times Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award. From 2014 to 2016, he served as Los Angeles’ Poet Laureate.


November 20, 2023
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:


Chevalier’s Books
133 North Larchmont Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90004 United States
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