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Outline of MPR News Article: Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop Editors Discuss New Anthology “American Precariat”


Minnesota is renowned for its robust writing community, particularly its incarcerated writing community. The Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop (MPWW) has been instrumental in fostering creative writing within state prisons, resulting in the publication of novels, poetry, and nonfiction by its members. For the first time, a group of incarcerated and recently incarcerated writers from MPWW have taken on the role of editors for a new anthology titled “American Precariat,” set for release on November 14th. MPR News Host Cathy Wurzer engages in a conversation with editors Zeke Caligiuri, Fong Lee, and Ronald Greer, delving into the significance of this groundbreaking project.

Interview with the Editors

Zeke Caligiuri

Cathy Wurzer initiates the interview by addressing Zeke Caligiuri, asking about the significance of incarcerated writers editing an anthology on the theme of precarity. Caligiuri emphasizes the transformative nature of this project, viewing it as a means for incarcerated writers to gain validation from the mainstream literary community. He underscores the importance of including precarious voices in the narrative, ensuring their experiences and perspectives are heard and acknowledged.

Ronald Greer

Cathy Wurzer shifts the focus to Ronald Greer, inquiring about the sense of freedom he finds in writing. Greer wholeheartedly affirms the liberating power of writing, describing it as one of the most freeing activities available to incarcerated individuals. He emphasizes the cathartic nature of writing, allowing individuals to embark on introspective journeys and transcend the confines of their physical surroundings. Greer highlights the common thread of loss and being overlooked that runs through the essays, underscoring the importance of attention and support for individuals facing precarious situations.

Fong Lee

Cathy Wurzer then turns to Fong Lee, seeking her perspective on the importance of including diverse perspectives and experiences in the anthology. Lee stresses the significance of ensuring that a wide range of voices and backgrounds are represented, recognizing that each individual possesses a unique perspective on precarity. She shares her experience of being released from prison during the project and how it influenced her involvement.

Themes Explored in the Anthology

The conversation transitions to an exploration of the themes that emerge within the anthology. The editors discuss the precarious nature of life, highlighting the unpredictable and often challenging circumstances that individuals face. They delve into the perception of time in precarious situations, exploring how it can be distorted, accelerated, or seemingly suspended. The editors also shed light on the profound grief that can accompany the loss of time spent outside of prison due to incarceration.

Favorite Essays and Discussions

Cathy Wurzer invites the editors to share their favorite essays and the discussions that ensued. Fong Lee recalls her engaging discussion with Ronald Greer on Kao Kalia Yang’s essay, appreciating the opportunity for friendly debate and the exchange of differing perspectives. Ronald Greer expresses his admiration for Kao Kalia Yang’s “My Mother Is Beautiful,” resonating with its message of resilience and finding beauty amidst adversity. He also commends Todd Warren’s “There Are No Bars in Rush City” for its poignant exploration of life after incarceration. Zeke Caligiuri echoes his appreciation for Todd Warren’s essay, along with Kiese Laymon’s “How to Kill Yourself and Others Slowly in America” and Michael Torres’s “Pinatas,” which he considers particularly special.


The interview concludes with the editors expressing their gratitude for the opportunity to share their work with the world through this anthology. They reflect on the transformative impact of the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop and acknowledge the upcoming student reading event, where incarcerated writers will have the chance to share their work with the public. The editors extend their invitation to the community to attend the event and engage with the powerful voices of incarcerated writers.


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