Writers’ Wednesday 9/12/18
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
5:00 – 5:30 pm – Book Signing, Wine and Cheese reception
5:30 – 6:30 pm – Lecture
Please join us for an evening with guest author, Dr. Karen Gedney, who will discuss her book entitled, 30 Years Behind Bars: Trials of a Prison Doctor.
As a child Gedney had poor vision and the problem went undiagnosed. She could not clearly see something that was more than an arm’s length away.
“So, what did I do?” she said. “I read books.” Her fourth-grade teacher assigned a book report. She doesn’t remember which book she reported on, but she remembers having been entranced.
“I couldn’t really see people,” she said. But, reading a book, she could pick up everything that was going on. At around age 9, she became a voracious reader and discovered the work of Frank G. Slaughter, a prolific and best-selling novelist who was also a physician.
“It was all about doctors who were, in historical times, taking care of people, where they were protecting against abuses of power,” Gedney recalled. “And they had romance and intrigue and danger.” Slaughter’s books also talked about current medical research and technology.
“I decided when I was 9 years old I was going to have to be a doctor-solely based on books,” Gedney said. “And I decided that was the sort of life I wanted, where it was danger, intrigue, adventure, protecting people, and then finding out all these neat things about science. And then I never changed.”
Back in 1973, a Texas prisoner named J.W. Gamble was unloading bales of cotton from a truck as part of a work assignment. A bale fell on him, injuring his back. He was not treated promptly. The incident led to a 1976 Supreme Court case, Estelle v. Gamble, which established that inmates have a right to health care.
A similar suit, Taylor v. Wolf, led Nevada’s then-governor Richard Bryan to petition the federal government for two prison doctors who would be installed in 1980. Gedney was one of them. The other was a woman she calls “Marla,” in the book, who worked at the maximum security prison nearby.
Gedney’s stories of injured prisoners and political chess from early in the book are just the tip of the iceberg. Things get even more intense from there and her long career is also punctuated with moments of humor and hope. The story remains a page-turner throughout.
Reading it, it’s easy to wonder, over and over, how she dealt with the pressures of prison and kept returning to work day after day.
“All through those years, I had been telling people little stories, and people would go, ‘Oh my god, you should write a book,” so, she kept a journal.
After retiring from the Nevada State Prison in 2016, Dr. Gedney got to work writing her book. “What I wanted to do was write a book to share the inside of the prison from the eyes of someone who is a healer-not a guard, not an inmate,” she said.
(for the full Reno News & Review article written by Chris Vagner:)
The Writers’ Wednesday Lecture Series, held the second Wednesday of each month, features a different author who takes part in a book signing, a presentation and a question-and-answer session with the audience. A wine and cheese reception precedes the lecture.
The intent of the program is to highlight writers who specifically focus on Nevada, the Great Basin, or the West in general. The authors talk about the content of their books but also share details about the creative process.