On America: James Hannaham’s Didn't Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta with the Innocence Project and Black and Pink
Thursday, 7:00 pm EDT September 15, 2022
The Center for Fiction
In-person tickets include a $10 bookstore voucher, redeemable toward the featured event book on the night of the event. All registrants will receive a link to livestream the event.
Join us in examining the intersections of gender and sexuality with the systemic racism inherent in America’s carceral system. Author James Hannaham’s new novel, Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta, is the raucous, irreverent, and “utterly brilliant” (Ayad Akhtar, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Homeland Elegies) story of a trans woman’s reentry into life on the outside after more than twenty years in prison. He is joined by former prosecutor and author Valena Beety, whose book Manifesting Justice: Wrongly Convicted Women Reclaim Their Rights shows a broken criminal justice system where defendants—including disproportionate numbers of women of color and queer individuals—are convicted due to racism, prejudice, coerced confessions, and false identifications.
In conversation with the Innocence Project’s social work director, Suzy Salamy, these authors will explore the power of story to bring these important issues, and the people whose lives are affected by them, to light.
James Hannaham is the author of the novels God Says No, a Stonewall Book Award finalist, and Delicious Foods, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and Dayton Literary Peace Prize finalist as well as a New York Times Notable Book. He lives in Brooklyn, where he teaches at the Pratt Institute.
Photo Credit: Isaac Fitzgerald
Valena Beety is a former federal prosecutor and innocence litigator who represented Leigh Stubbs in post-conviction. She has successfully exonerated wrongfully convicted clients, obtained presidential grants of clemency for drug offenders, served as an elected board member of the national Innocence Network, and was appointed commissioner on the West Virginia Governor’s Indigent Defense Commission. She is currently a Professor of Law at Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the Deputy Director of the Academy for Justice, a criminal justice center at the law school that connects research with policy reform. Previously, she founded and directed the West Virginia Innocence Project at the West Virginia University College of Law and practiced as a Senior Staff Attorney at the Mississippi Innocence Project, representing clients on death row. Visit her online at ValenaBeety.com.
Suzy Salamy is the director of social work at the Innocence Project. Suzy works with the social work department to support the recently freed and exonerated clients returning home after wrongful conviction and imprisonment. The department works with each newly released client to acclimate back into a changed society, connecting them to housing, medical care and providing supportive counseling. The social work department also supports Innocence Network partners in their effort to meet the needs of the freed and exonerated clients they support. Suzy has a background in photography and film and utilizes her skillset as a therapeutic tool when supporting clients in their healing. She received her B.A. from Bard College and Masters in Social Work from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.
Didn't Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta
By James Hannaham
Published by Little, Brown and Company
Carlotta Mercedes has been misunderstood her entire life. When she was pulled into a robbery gone wrong, she still went by the name she’d grown up with in Fort Greene, Brooklyn—before it gentrified. But not long after her conviction, she took the name Carlotta and began to live as a woman, an embrace of selfhood that prison authorities rejected, keeping Carlotta trapped in an all-male cell block, abused by both inmates and guards, and often placed in solitary.
In her fifth appearance before the parole board, Carlotta is at last granted conditional freedom and returns to a much-changed New York City. Over a whirlwind Fourth of July weekend, she struggles to reconcile with the son she left behind, to reunite with a family reluctant to accept her true identity, and to avoid any minor parole infraction that might get her consigned back to lockup.
Written with the same astonishing verve of Delicious Foods, which dazzled critics and readers alike, Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta sweeps the reader through seemingly every street of Brooklyn, much as Joyce’s Ulysses does through Dublin. The novel sings with brio and ambition, delivering a fantastically entertaining read and a cast of unforgettable characters even as it challenges us to confront the glaring injustices of a prison system that continues to punish people long after their time has been served.
About this series
Our On America series brings writers, journalists, activists, and change-makers together to reflect on the critical issues of our times. Who are we and who are we becoming? How do the stories we tell shape who we are as a nation? Will we rise to the challenges we face?
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