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DEBORAH TOBOLA-Hummingbird in Underworld

Sunday, August 25, 2019 - 5:00pm
Hummingbird in Underworld: Teaching in a Men's Prison, a Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781631525056
Availability: Out of Stock; Usually Arrives in 5-7 Days
Published: She Writes Press - July 23rd, 2019



Sunday, August 25 at 5pm

speaking & signing
Hummingbird in Underworld

In conversation with Lindsay Bing




Alternating between tales of creating original theatre in a men’s prison and her own story, Deborah Tobola’s Hummingbird in Underworld takes the reader on an unforgettable journey, affirming the power of art and the strength of the human spirit. 

At the age of forty-five, Deborah Tobola returns to her birthplace, San Luis Obispo, to work in the very prison her father worked in when he was a student at Cal Poly. But she’s not wearing a uniform as he did; she’s there to teach creative writing and manage the prison’s arts program—a dream job.

As she creates a theatre program for prisoners, Tobola finds plenty of drama off the stage as well. Inside the razor wire she finds a world frozen in the ’50s, with no contact with the outside except by telephone; officers who think prisoners don’t deserve programs; bureaucrats who want to cut arts funding; and inmates who steal, or worse. But she loves engaging prisoners in the arts and helping them discover their voices: men like Opie, the gentleman robber; Razor, the roughneck who subscribes to The New Yorker; charismatic Green Eyes, who really has blue eyes; Doo Wop, a singer known for the desserts he creates from prison fare.

Alternating between tales of creating drama in prison and Tobola’s own story, Hummingbird in Underworld takes readers on an unforgettable literary journey—one that is frank, funny, and fascinating.


Deborah Tobola is a poet, playwright, and coauthor of a children's book. Her work has earned four Pushcart Prize nominations, three Academy of American Poets awards, and a Children's Choice Book Award. She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona in 1990 and has worked as a journalist, legislative aide, and adjunct English faculty member. After teaching creative writing in California prisons, she became the Institution Artist Facilitator at the California Men's Colony. Her students won writing awards, published their work, and appeared on local and national radio. Tobola retired at the end of 2008 to begin Poetic Justice Project, the country's first theatre company for formerly incarcerated actors. She teaches creative writing and theatre at the California Men's Colony and serves as artistic director of Poetic Justice Project. She likes reading, gardening, traveling and spending time with her family and friends.


Lindsay Bing is a doctoral student and the assistant director of the Texas Prison Education Initiative at The University of Texas at Austin. Along with Professor Sarah Brayne and graduate student Armando Tellez, Bing helped to found TPEI with the goal of teaching college courses to youth and adults incarcerated in Texas. After two years, TPEI now serves more than 80 students incarcerated at Lockhart Correctional Facility by providing credit-bearing college courses and extracurricular programs. Her interest in building a college-in-prison program at UT stems from her work teaching with the Cornell Prison Education Program while employed at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Bing is now in her third year of her doctoral program in Sociology, studying the consequences of low-level contact with the criminal justice system. 

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