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Shame and the Ex-Convict: The New Jim Crow, African American Literature, and Edward P. Jones’s ‘‘Old Boys, Old Girls’’

This article initiates a discussion about the ex-convict in American literature through an analysis of Edward P. Jones’s 2004 short story ‘‘Old Boys, Old Girls.’’ More specifically, it discusses how shame polices African American ex-convicts’ post-prison lives and uses ‘‘Old Boys’’ to consider the limitations of using affect, especially ‘‘shamelessness,’’ as a method of resistance to mass incarceration. Drawing on contemporary theories of race and criminal justice, as well as affect theory, this article rethinks resistance to what Michelle Alexander calls the ‘‘New Jim Crow,’’ suggests new directions for African American literature, and makes an early contribution to the study of Edward P. Jones’s work, which is woefully under-examined in American literary studies.