Deborah Tobola


“Door Open For Beauty - Deborah Tobola's Hummingbird in Underworld."
— Los Angeles Review of Books
(Click here to read the full review)

“With open-mindedness and empathy, Tobola explores how
systemic issues play out in individuals’ lives
as they grasp for light in the darkness."
— Booklist

“. . . a treasure of a book in multiple ways . . . Her memoir recalls
prisoner comfort zones expanding, incorporating that taboo realm
where hopes and dreams of life beyond prison reside.”
—Foreword Reviews, 5-star review

". . . I found Hummingbird in Underworld memorable, enlightening,
and disarming. It’s not something we think about often-
what daily life is like inside a prison. I’m grateful for Deborah’s
insight and important work.”
—Tar Heel Reader
(Click here to read full review)

". . . a deeply moving reflection . . . beautifully wrought . . ."
— The Indypendent
(Click here to read the full review)

“. . . fascinating . . . writing is gorgeous and the voice
strong and engaging . . . the story of one woman’s faith in others
and how that faith brought out the best in some of them.”
— Reader's Favorite
(Click here to read full review)

"With Hummingbird in Underworld, Deborah Tobola has found what Rumi calls
'the infinite moment when everything happens.' It is luminous and tender.
The reader is given passage to poetry and humanity; to compassion
and even to a bright proposal to change our prison system. Remarkable.”
— Gregory Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries

"Riveting! Tobola moves between her maverick childhood and
outlier life teaching art in prison with the eye of an anthropologist
and the pen of a poet. Much more than a memoir.”
— Sheila Toomey, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

"In Hummingbird in Underworld, Deborah Tobola writes with lean precision,
guiding us through prison like a kind scientist.
This book is about attitude and inspiration: her passion for
the arts is matched by empathy for the imprisoned.
I was a student and employee of Ms. Tobola’s in 2000.
As a poet and novelist, she is my mentor once again.”
— Call me Opie

"Deborah Tobola is a change agent, a visionary pioneer in the field
of arts in corrections in the United States. Her stunning memoir
skillfully weaves her family’s story with her professional life,
delivering a lucid, up close, and deeply personal view of bringing
art a la carte into the belly of the beast.
Deborah is a lighthouse, shining a beacon of redemptive light,
reclaiming human souls once lost in the darkness of despair."
— Curt L. Tofteland, Founder of Shakespeare Behind Bars

"Deborah Tobola has spent most of the last 30 years in California prisons,
more time inside than the average bank robber. In Hummingbird in Underworld
she takes us on an adventure most people would never imagine, from her
rough-and-tumble childhood to her considerable artistic accomplishments.
This beautifully written book shows us an inside view of
daily life behind bars, and how Tobola changes lives
by engaging prisoners in the artistic process. What a joy to read!"
— Claire Braz-Valentine, poet and playwright

"Like a hummingbird, Deborah Tobola’s story flutters effortlessly from
her bohemian upbringing to her work in prison. It is her poetry, and the poetry
of her prison students, that 'knows no boundaries of geography or
language.' Hummingbird in Underworld vividly depicts the life
of an artist working in prison."
— Leah Joki, author of Juilliard to Jail and Prison Boxing

"In her fearless flight inside and outside the bars of prison,
Tobola shows us that 'the emergency is beauty in harsh places.'”
— J. H. Nuñez, poet


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