Paul Volponi discusses his work

Author spoke on his experience writing about youth incarceration.


Photo by Lily Hartenstein

Author Paul Volponi visited HHS to speak about racism in the youth incarceration system.

By Lily Hartenstein

Author Paul Volponi came to HHS to speak about youth incarceration and his own experience as a writer, on March 6.

Volponi is an author that participates in a program called Silicon Valley Reads, which has an annual theme that relates to featured authors and books for all ages, librarian Amity Bateman said.

“The theme this year is about justice and injustice, and I think it’s a hugely important issue, especially right now,” Bateman said. “I thought it would be interesting to get his perspective.”

Volponi is the writer of 12 novels, including “Riker’s High” and “Black and White, two books exploring the notions of racism in today’s justice system through the portrayal of young characters in jail.

“I wrote [the books] … because that’s the way it happens, day after day,” Volponi said.

Before writing his novels, Volponi worked as a high school teacher at Rikers Island, a jail in New York. He said that all the diversity he knew in the city vanished as soon as he entered the jail, and that students would ask him why there were no white teenagers with them. His rough estimation was that less two percent of students he taught were white.

Volponi said he decided to choose this topic to write about because he could use his experiences working with jailed teenagers.

“As you gain different experiences, what you want to write about will change,” he said.

The overall point of the discussion was to empower students that may be future authors to not feel limited to what they are able to write about.

“As writers, you’re going to make write things that make people uncomfortable,” Volponi said.