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Discussion Questions for Readers

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Having read Riverine, how does the otherness and socioeconomic stratification presented in the book subvert your understanding of the rural Midwest? Or does it reinforce the stereotypes?

How is violence passed down from generation to generation? How does this manifest in other communities and how is it related to our country’s long history of violence?

What kinds of violence are women subjected to in their daily lives? What kinds of aggression are women expected to accept as “normal”? Is this changing?

Does a change of place truly allow us to reinvent and transform ourselves, or do our past experiences dictate future ones?

Does it take a village to raise a child? How might our incarceration problem be impacted if we adopted the adage wholeheartedly? What would that look like?

The river that returns to its natural path suggests nature is a stronger driving force than human will. Some American wood ducks are genetically programmed to migrate, while others stay put year-round. With humans, the nature versus nurture question is complex and difficult to measure. Psychology and sociology have shown us that nurture plays a large role in who we become. What evidence of this is there in both Angela’s and Corey’s lives? 

Youth incarceration has detrimental, irreversible effects on the developing brain. The school-to-prison pipeline is a metaphor used to describe patterns of contact students have with the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems as a result of practices implemented by educational institutions—specifically zero tolerance policies and the use of police in schools. The metaphor is currently a hot topic of debate in discussions surrounding educational disciplinary policies as media coverage of youth violence and mass incarceration has grown over the past decade or so. This pattern of incarceration disproportionately affects Black and Latino youth in the education system, a practice known as the discipline gap. This discipline gap is also connected to the achievement gap. How effective is the American juvenile justice system? Is it fair? If not, what makes it unfair? Do you think Corey’s life might have been different if he hadn’t been incarcerated at a young age for nonviolent crimes? What could have been done differently in his early life that might have affected a different outcome? What examples have you seen in your own life or in the media that reflect the school-to-prison pipeline pattern?

Our incarceration rate has risen over 400% since the late 1970s, which coincides with the Nixon- and Reagan-era declaration of War on Drugs. To manage the problem of prison overcrowding and mass incarceration, the governmental entities who are responsible for inmate care have turned to contracts with private corporations for assistance with prison management. Discuss the ethics of the relationship between privatized prisons (prisons for profit) and justice.