Down in the Chapel

Religious Life in an American Prison

Joshua Dubler

Picador

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A BOLD AND PROVOCATIVE EXPLORATION OF ONE OF THE MOST RELIGIOUSLY VIBRANT PLACES IN AMERICA—A STATE PENITENTIARY

Baraka, Al, Teddy, and Sayyid: Four black men from South Philly, two Christian and two Muslim, are serving life at Pennsylvania’s maximum-security Graterford Prison. All of them work in the prison chapel, where they have regular opportunities to dispute the workings of God, faith, and self-transformation. And then Sayyid disappears.

Down in the Chapel tells the story of one week in Graterford’s chapel. We learn how the men at Graterford pass their time, care for themselves, foster relationships, and commune with their makers. We observe Evangelicals, Catholics, Jews, and black Muslims at prayer and study and song. And we watch what happens when an interloping scholar of religion is thrown into the mix with hopes of making sense of it all.

When prisoners turn to God, they are often scorned as “bad men” who fake their piety or as “poor men” who have no better option than to adopt simplistic and rigid creeds. Joshua Dubler goes beyond these stereotypes to show the religious life of a prison in all its vital complexity. An essential interpretation of faith in an age of mass incarceration, Down in the Chapel reveals what prisoners do with religion, and what religion does with them.

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Book Excerpts

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MONDAY
 

Graterford Prison is in Pennsylvania’s Montgomery County, thirty snaking miles northwest of Philadelphia’s city line. The prison sits on a bucolic plateau of 1,700 acres that rises above the Perkiomen Creek. Fallow farmland runs uphill away from the creek, where, seasonally, deer and Canada geese lounge unmolested. At the top of the rise beside a small reservoir is the OSU, the Outside Service Unit, which houses the “grays,” who are misconduct free and creeping up on their minimums. Past the parking lots is the prison itself, sixty-two acres enclosed

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Reviews

Praise for Down in the Chapel

“Nothing short of amazing.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Powerful and often surprising.”—The Christian Science Monitor

“A fascinating look inside an American prison.”—The Daily Beast

“This book is a masterful and magisterial probing into our new Jim Crow, told with subtle intelligence and genuine compassion. I salute Brother Joshua Dubler!”—Cornel West

In the Press

Reflections on George Zimmerman | Work in Progress
Joshua Dubler is the author of Down in the Chapel: Religious Life in an American Prison, which follows a group of prisoners serving life sentences at Graterford Prison. FSG published Down in the Chapel earlier this month.
- FSG's Work in Progress


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About the Author

Joshua Dubler

Joshua Dubler is an assistant professor of religion at the University of Rochester and the coauthor of Bang! Thud: World Spirit from a Texas School Book Depository. He has spent more than six years working with prisoners at the Graterford Prison. He lives in Rochester, New York.

Joshua Dubler

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Joshua Dubler

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Available Formats and Book Details

Down in the Chapel
Religious Life in an American Prison
Joshua Dubler

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Picador
8/12/2014
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781250050328
ISBN10: 1250050324
5 9/16 x 8 11/16 inches, 400 pages, Includes one map
$20.00

Hardcover

Hardcover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
August 2013
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780374120702
ISBN10: 0374120706
6 x 9 inches, 400 pages, Map/Notes/Index
$30.00

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
August 2013
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781466837119
ISBN10: 146683711X
400 pages, Map/Notes/Index
$14.99
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Picador

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