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Just Enough: Collected Writings of an Old Gangster Paperback – December 21, 2010
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About the Author
Nancy Jaicks Alexander is a retired consultant on trauma, grief and hospice. She was born in 1933 in Lake Forest, Illinois. She wanted to be a professional actress and attended Northwestern University's Theatre School. Her path from there did not lead to the theatre. She moved to San Francisco in 1953, and to Berkeley in 1971. She served on the KQED Board of Directors from 1976 to 1980. In 1981 she spent a year in residence at Esalen Institute studying Gestalt Therapy, Encounter Group Dynamics, Psychodrama, and Intuitive Work. In the Fall of 1982 Elisabeth Kübler-Ross asked Nancy to begin training to become a member of her international teaching and workshop staff. Nancy became one of Elisabeth’s “Life, Death and Transition” workshop facilitators in 1985 and continued working on that staff through 1993, shortly before the workshops were discontinued in 1994. In 1992 she and her late husband, Robert Evans Alexander, FAIA, helped to co-found the first prison hospice in the world, at Vacaville, California. She continued to visit the prison regularly to work directly with inmates who volunteer to support fellow inmates who are dying. She retired in 2010 after twenty-five years of community service at the prison.
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Elisabeth Kübler-Ross asked Nancy to begin training as a member of her international teaching and workshop staff in 1982. Nancy became one of Elisabeth's "Life, Death and Transition" workshop facilitators in 1985 and continued working on that staff through 1993. The workshops were discontinued in 1994. Unfortunately, none of the stories talk about her time with Kübler-Ross.
The book does cover the development of the first prison hospice in the world. In 1991 Nancy and her husband, Robert Evans Alexander, were among the co-founders of a hospice service inside the walls of the California Medical Facility (CMF), a cavernous penitentiary for men in Vacaville, California. The hospice project was an outgrowth of a support group that Nancy facilitated there for seven years for inmates with AIDS. Twenty-five years ago, at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, there were just twelve inmates who were treated like pariahs because they were carriers of the virus. Today, over 250 inmates are HIV-positive at that facility.
Robert died in 1992 and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation dedicated the hospice to him in 1993. Nancy continued to visit the prison regularly to support inmate hospice volunteers. She retired in 2010 after twenty-five years of community service at the prison. The subtitle "Collected Writings of an Old Gangster" comes from a remark made by one of the prisoners that "Anyone who has done twenty-five years time is an 'OG' (Old Gangster)." She describes the prison as "my sangha, my spiritual home".
Looks can be deceiving. Nancy looks and usually acts like a refined, white-haired matriarch with a Patrician bearing. But nothing is off-limits for her conversations, and her stories don't pull any punches. She can chat with an angry inmate about the indignities of cavity searches as easily as she can speak at a professional forum. It seems you can talk with Nancy about pretty much anything. She is a good writer, and her stories are fun to read.
nancy alexander's authenticity-her honesty and awareness of her psychology were fascinating for me---