Names and Images
Though "Prisoners of a Hard Life" shared various statistics and facts about incarcerated women, it was not the numbers nor the narratives but the images, particularly the faces and bodies of the women, on which I want to comment. The graphic-novel style of work adds a dimension to the stories of these five women that I'm not used to seeing. In grayscale, the women come to life and, were I able to take the figures out of the harsh words of the pages and environments of the panel, it would be easy enough to insert them into a children's book--as just another illustration of a woman. In this, I think the authors allow the reader to see the humanity of women who are used to being seen as criminals first and women and mothers as a distant second and third. The ink drawings make it easier to notice similarities between people instead of focusing on differences like race or class indicators like style of dress. The stories of these five women are each unique, but, through the medium of the graphic novel, more so than the photographs or other outside images that are included, it is easy to recognize that the women in the panels are more than their childhoods, their crimes, their addictions, their race, their poverty, or any other factors I may have previously focused on to define them.