A bold and provocative interpretation of one of the most religiously vibrant places in America—a state penitentiary
Baraka, Al, Teddy, and Sayyid—four black men from South Philadelphia, two Christian and two Muslim—are serving life sentences at Pennsylvania's maximum-security Graterford Prison. All of them work in Graterford's chapel, a place that is at once a sanctuary for religious contemplation and an arena for disputing the workings of God and man. Day in, day out, everything is, in its twisted way, rather ordinary. And then one of them disappears.
Down in the Chapel tells the story of one week at Graterford Prison. We learn how the men at Graterford pass their time, care for themselves, and commune with their makers. We observe a variety of Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, and others, at prayer and in study and song. And we listen in as an interloping scholar of religion tries to make sense of it all.
When prisoners turn to God, they are often scorned as con artists who fake their piety, or pitied as wretches who cling to faith because faith is all they have left. Joshua Dubler goes beyond these stereotypes to show the religious life of a prison in all its complexity. One part prison procedural, one part philosophical investigation, Down in the Chapel explores the many uses prisoners make of their religions and weighs the circumstances that make these uses possible. Gritty and visceral, meditative and searching, it is an essential study of American religion in the age of mass incarceration.
About Joshua DublerSee more books from this Author
Dubler knows that the prisoners enter a different world, far removed from the trappings of chapel life, but he is unable to relay that part of the story. Intriguing and diverse, but necessarily skin-deep.Read Full Review of Down in the Chapel: Religious... | See more reviews from Kirkus
This book aptly proves Dostoyevsky’s claim that one can judge a society’s civilization “by entering its prisons.”Read Full Review of Down in the Chapel: Religious... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly
Down in the Chapel highlights the humanity of the prisoners with a close eye for detail. It does for prison anthropology what Honoré de Balzac and Émile Zola did in their pursuit to investigate the various social strata of 19th century France.Read Full Review of Down in the Chapel: Religious... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books
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