The Strange Familiarity of the Guantánamo Bay Library
A couple of weeks ago, New York Times reporter Charlie Savage launched a Tumblr on which he has posted images of the prison library for detainees at Guantánamo Bay. Scrolling through the pictures is a strange but fascinating experience.
A main point of the Guantánamo system—of its location outside the continental United States in Cuba, of the separate legal system at work there, of the official rhetoric that has surrounded the detention facility since its inception—has been to make it seem as though Americans have nothing in common with the men being held within it.
But books connect. Not as strongly as some theorize—reading the same book as someone else doesn’t make you inexorably and totally connected—but shared experience of a cultural artifact is, indeed, a powerful thing. Scrolling through photos of Danielle Steel novels, of Narnia books, of Harry Potter and 300 Orchids: Species, Hybrids, and Varieties in Cultivation, I’m struck by the intense familiarity of these shelves that I’ve never seen, in a place I’ve never been, used by people that I do not know or, by design, know much about.
[The photo of Danielle Steel’s The Kiss wascontributed to gitmobooks by Carol Rosenberg]