Healing from Family Incarceration: Book Launch with Expert Panel

“Demetri Makes a Memory Quilt” author Renée Menart and expert panelists gather with community members to celebrate the launch of this exciting children’s book. It is available for purchase at https://bit.ly/demetribook. All author’s book sale profits are being donated to non-profit organizations supporting children and families impacted by incarceration.

Video chapters

0:00 Book intent and overview

5:00 Story development

10:13 Acknowledgements

14:37 Preview book reading

24:41 Panel discussion

1:02:56 Panel Q&A with audience


Watani Stiner is a civil rights activist and speaker in the Bay Area, who shares his experience reintegrating into society and back into the lives of his children after spending a total of 26 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He is a Board member of California Prison Focus and Root and Rebound. He works in schools using the power of storytelling to inspire young people to create meaningful social change.

Nancy Juarez is a Communications and Policy Analyst at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ). She is a daughter, a sister, and a friend to one too many loved ones taken by the system. She graduated from UC Davis in the field of International Agricultural Development with a specialization in Economics and Trade Development. Nancy is also a former fellow of the Next Generation Fellowship.

Rebecca Jackson is the Program Director of Cameo House, a residential alternative sentencing and reentry program that supports homeless, justice-involved women and their children in San Francisco. She utilizes her direct experiences in the justice system as she leads all Cameo House programming, operations, and services with strong will and dedication.

The book launch event was recorded on November 7, 2021.

Opinion: Children’s book aims to combat stigma, uplift children with incarcerated parents

The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) published an op-ed by Renée Menart on April 1, 2022. Excerpted below, the piece can be found here.

Credit: Rob Marmion/Shutterstock

Children’s books centered on characters involved in the justice system can support kids with incarcerated parents and offer a compassionate window into this experience for broad young audiences…

For one family in San Francisco, “Demetri Makes a Memory Quilt” has already provided much needed comfort. On a recent brisk day, as sunlight peeked through the clouds, a teenage boy and his grandmother walked up to a three-story blue house known to locals as Cameo House.

The boy’s mom lives here. Before this, she had been separated from their family and confined to a jail cell while they awaited a judge’s sentencing decision. Fortunately, instead of a years-long prison sentence, the boy’s mom was offered a room at Cameo House for up to two years. There, she could reconnect with her children, participate in therapy sessions and support groups, pursue career goals, and create a foundation for her future.

Cameo House Program Director Rebecca Jackson noticed the boy’s slumped shoulders and dejected expression as he stood on the stoop. She recognized this look as that of a child with shrapnel wounds from the explosion that is a parent’s incarceration. Rebecca, herself a formerly incarcerated mother of two, turned to residential support staffer Aurora Jimenez with an idea.

“He’s Demetri! Oh my goodness, let’s give him a book!” she exclaimed. Aurora quickly brought Rebecca one of the paperback books stacked on a desk near the Cameo House entrance. Rebecca approached the boy lovingly with “Demetri Makes a Memory Quilt” in her hands. She explained the story and suggested that he read it to his younger brother. The teenager’s demeanor changed as he received this gift. His eyes welled and he cracked a smile.

As the boy departed with his grandma by his side, Rebecca reflected. “That is what this story is all about. We have never had a tool like this before – a simple way to make children feel seen.”


Read “Opinion: Children’s book aims to combat stigma, uplift children with incarcerated parents >

A New Book for Kids Centers a Child’s Experience of a Parent’s Incarceration

The Imprint published an article by Jeremy Loudenback on January 18, 2022. Excerpted below, the article can be found here.

In the new children’s book “Demetri Makes a Memory Quilt,” the main character, a young, school-age boy is agitated. Demetri rifles through his mailbox, but there is no sign of a long-awaited letter from his mother.

Demetri’s mom is in prison, and her messages are a precious lifeline as he handles growing up without her.

Over the course of 32 pages, first-time children’s book author Renée Menart describes how Demetri handles the often-overwhelming tangle of his emotions, with the help of caring family members and a supportive teacher. First, his grandmother helps him gather pieces of fabric that remind him of memorable moments with his mom to be stitched into a quilt — pieces of a polka dot towel represents a memory of a fun outing at the beach, where he searched for seashells and built sandcastles with his mom and cousin. Seeing his difficulty staying focused in class, Demetri’s school teacher Mr. Howard helps him draw a picture to send to his mom.

In time, the small boy is able to set aside his constant worry over receiving his mother’s letters, images revealed in expressive, earth-toned drawings by up-and-coming illustrator Candice Bradley.


Read “A New Book for Kids Centers a Child’s Experience of a Parent’s Incarceration” >