November, 2020

Three questions with...
2019 Fellow Reuben Jonathan Miller

Your Fellowship project is your forthcoming book Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration. Can you tell us about this project and your goals for it?

The book is about the many ways that mass incarceration has changed the social life of the city. The prison and policing and the courts, probation and parole have filtered into our most intimate relationships, changing how grandmothers, partners and children relate with one another. I try to trace those changes nationally, drawing from my research over the last decade and a half, and my own experiences as the son and brother of formerly incarcerated men. 

My hope is to change the conversation about the work mass incarceration does in the social world, and to think more carefully about the many ways that social life has been altered by our impulse to punish people we’re afraid of and people that we’ve thrown away.

In Halfway Home you explore life in a “supervised society.” Can you explain a bit about this term and its significance in your book and your work?

45,000 laws and policies dictate where people with criminal records may live, work and with whom they may spend their time, shape their family dynamics and dictate which neighborhoods they must avoid. They compel them to participate in programming that would be voluntary for other Americans, and they restrict those same people from full participation in the political economy and culture. This doesn’t just affect the 2.3 million people held in a cage, but the 19.6 million Americans estimated to have a felony record—a full third of whom are black, almost all are poor. But this doesn’t stop at the threshold of the black family. Poor white men represent a third of the prison, and over a third of white men will be arrested by their 23rd birthday. Mass incarceration is an American problem, and the supervised society draws millions of Americans into its ambit.

You have a background in sociology. What drew you to this discipline, and how does it translate into your writing and Fellows project?

Sociology gives me a language and a set of methods to ask questions about the larger operations of society and empirical tools to answer them. I was drawn to sociology because of the scholars I read—Loïc Wacquant, WEB DuBois, C Wright Mills, Barbara and Karen Fields. Sociology’s macro social focus allows me to connect the dots between my experiences caring for loved ones in and out of prison with changes in the larger political economy and culture and it helps me locate my fieldwork (reporting) and the narratives I’ve uncovered for my fellowship project within a broader history and set of social practices.

Hot Off The Press

Oak Flat

A powerful work of visual nonfiction about three generations of an Apache family struggling to protect sacred land from a multinational mining corporation.

Publication date: November 17.

Available for pre-order through our bookselling partner Solid State Books here.

By: Lauren Redniss, Class of 2017

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Two Cents

National Fellows on peer workshopping and how it's changed the way they approach their work.

1: Yes, particularly with artists working in different mediums. They are able to see if a work has legs in other forms, which is exciting. — Yi-Ling Liu, Class of 2021

2: Peer workshopping reminds me of psychotherapy in the way that it holds up a mirror, showing you things about your self or your work that you couldn't see on your own. With regular exposure to peer feedback, I find that I'm more readily able to adopt that outside, third-party perspective even when it's just me and my computer. — Annie Murphy Paul, Class of 2014

3: I haven't done formal workshops, but I've made it my practice to get a lot of reader feedback—probably more than many writers do! My training in design has helped me figure out ways to mine feedback for insight, beyond the surface of a reader's response. What are they not saying? Where did they get tripped up? There's usually a "note behind the note," as my film editor husband would say. You have to be alert to it. — Sara Hendren, Class of 2018


Matthew Shaer wrote the cover story for the Sunday, November 8 New York Times Magazine about the immigrant, minority, and poor communities that have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic. He also wrote for Esquire about how one Arizona community is responding to alarming teen suicide rates.

George Packer and Patrick Radden Keefe won top CFR awards for their books Our Man and Say Nothing.

Cecilia Aldarondo's film Landfall has been acquired by POV and will be shown on PBS in 2021.

Shaun Ossei-Owusu published an article in ABA Journal titled, “For minority law students, learning the law can be intellectually violent.”

David Rohde's book In Deep was reviewed in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.

Clint Smith revealed the cover for his forthecoming book How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America, now available for preorder.

Adam Harris wrote for the Atlantic about changes in the South during election season, and about Joe Biden's outreach to Black male voters. He also appeared on MSNBC to discuss his article on Biden.

Two Cents
New America Events

The top 3 New America online events we recommend you check out. Now.


NOV 12TH + 13TH

Public Interest Technology University Network 2020 Virtual Convening

Join PIT-UN for the 2020 virtual convening, along with partners from higher education, philanthropy, and public policy to discuss building the public interest technology sector; hear from leaders and scholars about addressing systemic inequality; and discover how you can use a career as a technologist for good. Learn More


When Dickinson and Beowulf Meet TikTok

Join Future Tense for a new series discussing how the past, present, and future of language collide. Learn More


A Media Mentorship Forum and Workshop

Join the Teaching, Learning, & Tech team for a discussion about why and how to become a media mentor in this overwhelming digital age. Learn More

Reading this month

A thought-provoking, nuanced depiction of the various and evolving forms of censorship in China, as well as the many efforts to evade it.

— Jennifer Daskal, 
Class of 2021

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I'm obsessed with this book and how Cohen takes major court decisions and demonstrates, with ridiculous precision, the role they've had in creating the United States of Inequality. The reporting is superb.

— Melissa Segura,
Class of 2019

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A masterwork in storytelling. An intimate character portrait, a true-crime mystery, and an exposé on the North Dakota oil boom, all in one.

— Lisa Hamilton,
Class of 2019

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We are storytellers who generate big, bold ideas that have an impact and spark new conversations about the most pressing issues of our day.

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Sarah Baline + Sophie Nunnally + Awista Ayub

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