Tag Archives: Prison

The Prisoner’s Wife by Asha Bandele

Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Price: $15.99
Purchase: Amazon | BN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description

As a favor for a friend, a bright and talented young woman volunteered to read her poetry to a group of prisoners during a Black History Month program. It was an encounter that would alter her life forever, because it was there, in the prison, that she would meet Rashid, the man who was to become her friend, her confidant, her husband, her lover, her soul mate. At the time, Rashid was serving a sentence of twenty years to life for his part in a murder. The Prisoner’s Wife is a testimony, for wives and mothers, friends and families. It’s a tribute to anyone who has ever chosen, against the odds, to love.

 

***  Vlog Review: https://youtu.be/N4kqoD6gDmw ***

 

Review

I decided to read The Prisoner’s Wife after reviewing Writing My Wrongs by Shaka Senghor. Shaka listed it as one of his favorite books, and I can see why. Asha Bandele is a beautiful writer, who penned a powerful memoir like a poet that she is.

I must admit, it was not an easy read. She touches on topics which gave me pause and had me reflect on my own life. In some ways, she and I share similar pasts which is why I identified and was profoundly moved by her writing.

The Prisoner’s Wife is a love story, but not an ordinary one. It was about her personal journey of falling in love and marrying a man named Rashid, who was serving a life sentence for murder.

One of the things I learned from reading this memoir is when someone is incarcerated, not only are they doing time, but so are their loved ones, which is what happened to Asha. She spent the majority of her time alone, other than the letters, phone calls and occasional visits.

I commend her for writing the truth and not painting an unrealistic picture. She did not romanticize her experience, but was bold, brave and courageous. She exposes the truth, shows the difficulties, and obstacles related to loving someone in prison.

If you were ever curious about what it’s like to be married to someone serving time, I highly recommend The Prisoner’s Wife. 

Asha Bandele is an author and journalist. A former features editor for Essence magazine, Asha is the author of two collections of poems, the award-winning memoir The Prisoner’s Wife, and the novel Daughter. She lives in Brooklyn with her daughter.

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Writing My Wrongs by Shaka Senghor

Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Convergent Books
Price: $14.00
Purchase: Amazon | BN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description

Shaka Senghor was raised in a middle class neighborhood on Detroit’s east side during the height of the 1980s crack epidemic. An honor roll student and a natural leader, he dreamed of becoming a doctor—but at age 11, his parents’ marriage began to unravel, and the beatings from his mother worsened, sending him on a downward spiral that saw him run away from home, turn to drug dealing to survive, and end up in prison for murder at the age of 19, fuming with anger and despair.
Writing My Wrongs is the story of what came next. During his nineteen-year incarceration, seven of which were spent in solitary confinement, Senghor discovered literature, meditation, self-examination, and the kindness of others—tools he used to confront the demons of his past, forgive the people who hurt him, and begin atoning for the wrongs he had committed. Upon his release at age thirty-eight, Senghor became an activist and mentor to young men and women facing circumstances like his. His work in the community and the courage to share his story led him to fellowships at the MIT Media Lab and the Kellogg Foundation and invitations to speak at events like TED and the Aspen Ideas Festival.

In equal turns, Writing My Wrongs is a page-turning portrait of life in the shadow of poverty, violence, and fear; an unforgettable story of redemption, reminding us that our worst deeds don’t define us; and a compelling witness to our country’s need for rethinking its approach to crime, prison, and the men and women sent there.

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Vlog Review: https://youtu.be/ER3t-xnHgE4

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Review

Writing My Wrongs is about the power of hope, change, and redemption. It sheds light on the reality and truth of mass incarceration.

I have read many books about prison, but never as poignant, gritty, and honest as this one. This memoir provoked me in ways I had not expected.

Shaka Senghor is an inspiration and a great writer. He was born with a gift which he was able to develop during his time in solitary confinement. It was through reading and writing that he was able to heal and find himself.

His story taught me that people deserve a second chance, and should not be limited or defined by their past.

Writing My Wrongs is an important and powerful book, which touched, inspired and encouraged me. I hope it gets into the hands of the youth in public schools, detention centers, and prisons across America. I highly recommend it.

In conclusion, I want to thank Convergent for sending me this complimentary book in exchange for an honest review.

Locked up for nearly nineteen years, Shaka Senghor has used his incarceration as a vehicle for change. Through years of study and self-reflection, he has transformed himself from an uncaring “thug” into a principled, progressive man who refuses to allow his circumstances to define who he is or what he’s capable of.

Once a very angry, bitter young man, it was books that saved him from self-destructing and allowed him to see beyond the barbed-wire fences that held him captive. In an environment where hopelessness and despair grow like weeds, writing became his refuge. Eventually, he began writing creatively, tapping into the growing interest in street/hip hop literature. The author of six books and countless articles and short stories, he is inspired by revolutionary prison writers like George Jackson, Malcolm X and Donald Goines.

Whether writing street lit or poetry, Shaka speaks the truth about the oppressive conditions of the ‘hood and the not-so-glamorous side of the streets. He writes in a way that compels his readers to see the hope and humanity of a discarded generation shaped by the crack epidemic, the fall of the auto industry and the rise of the prison industrial complex. He is soon to be released and is eager to begin working with youth through gun and violence prevention programs in his hometown of Detroit.

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The Hustle Chronicles by Blacc Topp

Publisher: Blacc Star Media Group
ISBN-10: 1622093712
ISBN-13: 978-1622093717
Price: $10.00
Purchase: Blacc Star Media | Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description

Julius Jr.s’ childhood is far less than perfect. He is torn between his mother and father who are going through a bitter divorce. His world is turned upside down when his father takes him from the comfort of the family home in Benton Harbor Michigan to the brutal streets of South Dallas Texas. When Julius Jr.s’ family is gruesomely murdered his life takes a dramatic turn. His mother Naje moves to Texas to care for her youngest son and finds herself drawn into a conspiracy that threatens to not only take the life of her youngest son but hers as well. Roll with Julius as he grows into the ultimate hustler and unrelenting killer that the gang-ridden streets of South Dallas often breeds, where pimping, drug dealing, treachery and betrayal go hand in hand.

Review

I happened upon Novelist Blacc Topp recently, and decided to explore his writing. The Hustle Chronicles is his debut novel which was released in 2012.

Little did I know, I would embark on a suspenseful ride of twists and turns. I immediately fell in love with his writing, the story and the characters. Especially, Julius Sr. and Julius Jr. Their bond was special and touching.

Novelist Blacc Topp does an extraordinary job of evoking emotion as well as conveying the inner workings of the mind and heart of his characters. His writing style is raw, sensual and thought provoking. He draws you in, and seduces you with his vivid and detailed descriptions. It’s as if he’s holding your hand and guiding you through an experience you won’t forget.

Blacc Topp is a creative genius and a master of words. His unique and original style has taken this genre to another level.

I highly recommend The Hustle Chronicles, and any book he pens. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Novelist Blacc Topp was born to a father that was a gangster turned preacher and a mother that was a singer, artist, and scholar. He was born into a family of preachers, pimps, prostitutes, drug drealers, dopefiends, and squares. Blacc Topp was raised on the streets of South Dallas, Texas. After the death of his father, feeling as though he had nowhere to turn he turned to the gang. The neighborhood gang, Dixon Circle 357um Gangsta Crips is where he would learn to become ruthless and unfeeling. Although he was deep in the gang and game, he continued his studies for fear that his mother would make him move to Florida.

By the age nineteen he had been shot three times and was on his way to the Texas Department of Corrections with a forty year prison sentence for distribution of narcotics. While inside he lost his youngest sister to the violence of drugs in 1996. After serving seven years, he was granted parole (mainly due to his mother’s efforts). He used the education that he obtained inside to land a job at a top engineering firm in Texas. He used his love of word play to push himself to local fame on the hip-hop scene in Texas and Florida but, he would lose his mother to cancer in 2006, only to lose his oldest sister to cancer in 2008 and he knew something had to change. He began to chronicle his life, his mishaps and his capers which gave birth to The Hustle Chronicles, his debut novel and soundtrack of the same name.

You can follow him at: Novelist Blacc Topp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

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Tropical Illusions by John Bowens

ISBN-13: 9780985330309
Publisher: Step Ya Game Up
Publication date: 4/20/2012
Pages: 264
Price: $15.00
Purchase: Amazon | BN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description

Tasia and Jeff are in a monogamous relationship and they share a bond befitting that of a fairy tale. Misfortune befalls them when two things happen. First, Jeff is seduced by a stripper named Tropical, and what begins as a protected sexual escapade ends as a harsh reality when Jeff learns that the condom broke during intercourse.

Next, Jeff is accused of murder, and he finds himself trapped in an unforgiving system, figuratively and sometimes literally, fighting for his life.
The drama unfolds when Jeff is diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and he’s forced to break this life changing news to the love of his life. Unfortunately, Tasia has no understanding. Instead of getting tested, she automatically assumes that she’s infected with the deadly disease. Out of hatred and anger, Tasia concludes that all men are dogs…and she vows to share her newly acquired fortune with as many men as possible.

Review

It’s been a while since I have reviewed a book, but Tropical Illusions by John Bowens was one I could not pass up. I have to be honest and say, that I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book. I read the description and was on the fence about wanting to read anything about HIV or AIDs. However, I’m so glad I did, because Tropical Illusions taught me a lot.

I believe this story is vital and needs to get into hands of the youth. Tropical Illusions articulated a variety of life lessons, the greatest one being, the dire and fatal consequence of engaging in unprotected sex.

Let me tell you, if you or anyone you know is having unprotected sex, this book will scare the living daylights out of you. I can assure that after you read Tropical Illusions, you won’t have unprotected sex again.

Tropical Illusions was written as fiction, however, it felt real to me. It is the type of book that you can’t put down. You want to keep reading to find out what will happen next. The characters were palatable, the story was raw and explosive. Bowens did an excellent job as I was able to visualize and feel everything as if I was there.

I highly recommend Tropical Illusions, as it has an important and life saving message. I believe it needs to be read by as many people as possible, especially the youth.

After being sentenced to 19 years to be served in federal prison, John Bowens utilized his time by furthering his education. During his incarceration he lost a friend to HIV/AIDS which prompted him to begin writing. He was born and raised in NYC but currently resides in Charlotte, NC where he is an advocate encouraging others to join the fight against HIV and AIDS as well as the fight against illiteracy.

 

 

 

 

 

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Author Interview: Seth Ferranti

After reading a book by Ethan Brown called, Queens Reigns Supreme, which I personally didn’t care for.

I discovered Seth Ferranti’s book,  The Supreme Team, and found his book amazing.

If you want to know a true account of The Supreme Team, this is the book to read.

Mr. Ferranti’s writing voice is vibrant, bold, and raw. When you read his work, you know it’s the real deal.

I have been following Mr. Ferranti’s work ever since and it is with great pleasure to introduce him to you today.

 

1) So tell us a little bit about yourself? Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?

I grew up in California, born and raised. My father was in the military, so basically, I am a military brat. We moved around a lot. I lived in Germany, England, and on the East Coast too, but we always moved back to California.

I was an outgoing and head strong child who was probably a little rebellious. Fancied myself a rebel without a cause. But my childhood was good.

2) When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I started out writing songs, music and poetry when I was 12 or 13. But before that I was playing “Dungeons and Dragons and creating worlds to play that game in.

I have always been creative. I was into poetry, music, writing articles, then chapters, and then books. For me, it was a natural progression. Hopefully movies are next.

3) When did you decide you wanted to write a book?

I started doing this short story idea which became my first book, Prison Stories. So probably around the late 90’s, I decided I wanted to become a writer and start penning books. But it wasn’t like I just did it, it was a long and slow process. At first, it took several years, but now I can crank them out in six months.

4) How did the idea or inspiration come?

I just saw what other people were doing and I liked reading the books on prison life and true crime. Like the Mafia and Cartel books. I decided I wanted to do something representative of the time I was doing in the Feds. I wanted to write about the inner city gangsters that the rappers were talking about, so I did.

5) What are some of your all-time favorite books?

I love In the Belly of the Beast by Jack Henry Abbot, Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, 1984 by George Orwell, On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter Thompson, Soledad Brother by George Jackson.

6) What was the hardest book to write and why?

The Supreme Team was a monumental effort. I got a lot of resistance from some of the dudes involved, so that was satisfying to finally get out. It is a monster of a book and I really think it needed to be published to give their history. They influenced hip-hop and the streets so much. But it was a big deal to get all the clearances for that book and I had several delays before I was finally able to put it out.

7) Which was your favorite book to write?

Every project I do is dear to my heart, but I like the Prison Stories book. Because it was my first and it was a journey I had never been on before.

8) How did you develop the confidence to approach magazines with your work?

I am very outgoing and I do what I call, jumping out there. I just expose myself. You get a lot of rejection and if you can’t take it, no sense in doing it. But I don’t have a problem with rejection. I believe in myself and maybe someone doesn’t feel me, my work or my vibe, but if I keep jumping out there, someone probably will.

9) Where have you published your articles?

You can go on the publications section of gorillaconvict.com and check out a lot of my published works from magazines and the Internet or just Google my name and a lot of stuff comes up. I am in the process of updating the site right now, so more recent stuff will be going up.

10) You were just released from prison a few weeks ago? For those of us who don’t know, what is it like being in prison? How did you manage to overcome the many obstacles presented to you? How long were you in prison for? Was there any retaliation for writing in prison and why? Do you have any ideas on how we can reform the justice and prison system? What are some of your thoughts on this?

Prison sucks for real. You just have to stay busy and stay out of the drama and keep your head down. It’s great to be out. I just did the time, I didn’t let it do me. I didn’t get involved in the mix and the prison politics. I didn’t let the system eat me up. I stayed busy with school, my writing and working out. That’s the key.

I was in prison for 21 years. I was put in the hole numerous times for my writing. The prison officials don’t like when you expose what is going on in there. And especially when you have a national audience like I did.

They need to stop giving out so much time, it’s absurd. I did 21 years for a first time nonviolent offense.

Reform the whole system. It’s a bloated corrupt system right now.

Investigate it. Stop turning a blind eye. People only care when it happens to them.

11) What are some of the valuable lessons you’ve learned from doing time?

Time is precious. I feel so behind now, like I have to accomplish all my life’s goals in the next 5-10 years. I just feel like I am way behind and that I have to catch up.

But doing time teaches you to be patient and that everything unpleasant is only temporary.

12) If you could have done something different what would it have been?

I wish I would have had a clue when I was 19 and that I wouldn’t have sold drugs, but that is now. When I was twenty, no one could have told me anything.

13) What kept you going and what got you through the hard days?

I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I was living through my writing. I was accomplishing things. I set goals and I realized them. I earned college degrees, I wrote articles and books. I had a life outside of prison.

14) What are things you value and appreciate now that most people take for granted?

I just enjoy taking a walk with my wife and my dog. Choosing my own food to eat. Buying my own clothes. Walking around the mall. Going on the computer. These things a worthwhile to me.

15) How has your perspective on life changed?

I am grown and mature. I know life isn’t fair and that I don’t know everything. I know life can change in an instant and it can all be taken away.

16) What advice would you give the youth of today?

Time is precious, don’t waste it.

17) Will you be writing a memoir?

Yes. I am going to New York in the new year, when I get out of the halfway house, to find an agent who can represent my various endeavors.

18) Lastly, what advice would you give to writers who are just starting out?

I always tell people to just write. Just write and write and write and edit and edit and edit. You have to build up your catalog and content. You have to have pieces you are always working on and crafting and bringing to perfection. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write and you have to jump out there. Who will know about you if you don’t jump out there.

Thank you so much, Mr. Ferranti. It was a pleasure having you as my guest. I wish you a multitude of success, in your life, and future endeavors.

My name is Seth Ferranti. I am the gorilla convict writer. I completed my Masters degree in Humanities through California State University. Previously, I earned an AA degree in Letters, Arts and Sciences from Penn State University and a BA degree in Liberal Arts from the University of Iowa. I have written several hundred articles, including feature stories, for magazines such as Don Diva, Feds, King, FHM, Slam, Street Elements, Vice and websites like hoopshype.com, viceland.com and urbanbooksource.com, among others. I have contributed short stories and pieces to Nikki Turner Presents Christmas in the Hood, Out of the Gutter Vol. 1 to 5, Badlands Publishing’s Money Power and Betrayal short story collection and Prison Chronicles published by Gutter Books. My blog on gorillaconvict.com gives the 411 on prison, street legends, the mafia, prison gangs, urban authors and life in the belly of the beast. It attracts 15 to 20k unique visitors and over 250,000 hits a month.  For my next projects I am interested in writing a book on the notorious prison gang, the Aryan Brotherhood and a memoir on my case which led to my eventual incarceration. I have written two screenplays, THE DOPE SHOW, about gangs battling over the heroin trade in prison and THE SUPREME TEAM, which chronicles Prince’s rise and fall in the drug game during the crack era in late 1980’s Jamaica, Queens. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

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Jesus Isn’t A Racist or A Murderer

A few weeks ago, I read this letter by Ray Jasper who was executed last Wednesday night in Texas.

Ray Jasper

Ray Jasper was 18 years old when he murdered David Alejandro.

David Alejandro

At the age of 33, David Alejandro was a lead singer of a Christian band besides running his own recording studio. Before Ray Jasper, an aspiring rapper, killed him.

Jasper had previous sessions in Alejandro’s recording studio prior to the attack. He devised a plan with two others to steal Alejandro’s studio equipment.

I’m not sure what possessed Jasper to make a tragic mistake in taking the life of someone he considered one of the nicest people he ever met.

But what I do know is that his final letter evidenced a changed man prior to his execution last Wednesday night.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, which is why I consider the death penalty unethical. I know there are Christians who don’t agree with me.

They quote bible verses in the Old Testament as their justification and reason for why they believe capital punishment is allowed by God. However, when I look at the New Testament, the new covenant, Jesus didn’t go around killing anyone.

Saul (before his name was changed to Paul) persecuted and killed Christians. If Jesus was in favor of the death penalty, he would have killed Paul on the road to Damascus. Yet, Jesus didn’t kill him, He showed him mercy, grace, love and forgiveness.

There are thirty-two states in the USA supporting the death penalty. Meanwhile, there are many on death row (or serving life sentences in solitary confinement) who are innocent.

Currently, there is a series on CNN called Death Row Stories, which is revealing a few of the many cases of those who were on death row and are now exonerated.

I’ll tell you this, I wouldn’t want to be those who are killing people by lethal injection, and have innocent blood on my hands the day I see Jesus.

In my humble opinion, the prison system is modern day slavery and the death penalty is a modern day genocide, where whites still lynch blacks by lethal injection.

Yes, I’m white and writing this. I refuse to pretend or turn a blind eye on the reality of racism in this country.

Jesus isn’t a racist, so therefore, neither am I.

As Christians, I believe we shouldn’t be in agreement or in favor of the death penalty. My heart grieves for all those who are innocent and sitting on death row or serving life sentences in solitary confinement.

Christians need to take a stand for change and be a voice for the voiceless. The death penalty is antiquated, inhumane, unethical, barbaric, and needs to be abolished.

Human beings do not have a right to dictate who lives and who dies; only God reserves that right.

What are some of the ways which we can advocate to abolish the death penalty?

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A Forgotten Ministry

Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them;and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.
Hebrews 13:3

Courtesy of Creative Commons

A couple of weeks ago, I came across an article about a new book that was released, Black is the Day, Black is the Night by Amy Elkins.

This article fascinated me. Amy Elkins corresponded with five male inmates on death row, which lead to her book of remarkable photographs. She expresses their story in an artistic way.

I have been studying about solitary confinement and prison life for awhile now.

Our entire prison and justice system baffles and troubles me. I have a burden for those who are incarcerated.

Those who have been locked up, forgotten about by family and so-called friends as if they no longer exist.

Let me share an excerpt by Amy Elkins:

“A system that uses long-term solitary confinement and capital punishment is broken. Housing someone in infinite isolation has been proven to be hugely damaging to one’s psychological and physical state. This type of isolation breeds behavioral and emotional imbalances that are bound to cause most to remain in a perpetual state of anxiety, depression and anger. Which means they are set up for failure. There is absolutely no way to rehabilitate in such conditions.  But clearly rehabilitation isn’t what they have in mind.

I have written with one man in particular who has served 20 years in solitary confinement as part of a Life Without Parole (LWOP) sentence for a non-murder related crime he committed aged 16. He has written about going years talking through concrete walls without ever seeing the men he holds daily conversations with. He spends nearly 23 hours a day in a small cell by himself and when he is let out, he is shackled and permitted to exercise in a slightly larger room by himself for an hour. How he’s gone 20 years in these conditions and not gone completely mad is mind blowing.”

I have been writing to inmates off and on now for years. You have no idea how happy it makes them to receive letters.

While sitting in their 6 x 9 to 8 x 10 feet cell, day in and day out, for 22 or 23 hours a day, with no hope of physical contact with anyone other than a correctional officer.

They describe solitary confinement or death row as hell on earth.

You may be thinking, these prisoners are criminals, they deserve what they get. They took a life or whatever, so they need to pay for what they did.

But think about it, how will they ever rehabilitate in a barbaric system like solitary confinement or capital punishment?

The system is flawed.

The Bible admonishes us not to forget about those who are in prison.

Perhaps you don’t want to visit a prison. That is understandable. It’s not for everyone.

But, if you have a burden, you could write to an inmate or two.

Some churches even have a prison ministry. If you a part of or member of a church, you may be able to get involved in their pen pal ministry.

If not, you can do it on your own; just Google inmate pen pal sites and choose an inmate to write to.

It’s best to write to the same sex, however, you may discover you identify and have a burden for someone of the opposite sex.

It is important to be clear about your position and intention in your first letter to them, so they know where you stand. Setting boundaries from the beginning is vital.

They will respect your wishes because all they desire is to be able to communicate with someone, anyone.

Believe it or not, the majority do not receive letters from anyone.

If you are concerned about your safety or of your family, you can always use an alias and rent a P.O. Box.

I highly suggest only using a P.O. Box.

If you are going to begin writing to an inmate, the most important thing to remember is consistency is key.

If you believe you won’t be able to be consistent for whatever reason, it is best not to start.

The reason why I say this, is because it will only result in another let down and disappointment for them.

They are already at a loss and suffer from hopelessness.

The only thing they look forward to is receiving letters.

If you decide to start, please make sure you can stick with it.

Writing to those in prison is a forgotten ministry, but is one of the best ways to demonstrate God’s love in action.

Is this something you would be interested in doing? Do you have any questions or concerns? If so, please comment below.

 

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Life After Death by Damien Echols

Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Plume
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0142180289
ISBN-13: 978-0142180280
Price: $17.00
Purchase: Amazon | BN

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description:

The New York Times bestselling memoir by Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three, who was falsely convicted of three murders and spent nearly eighteen years on Death Row—Life After Death is destined to be a classic of explosive, riveting prison literature.

Review:

I read an interview with John Grisham and the interviewer asked him what he was reading. He responded, a memoir called Life After Death by Damien Echols. He mentioned it was one of the best books he’s read in a long time. So I decided to get it.

When I began reading this book, I was riveted.

Damien Echols is an extraordinary writer. I was blown away by the way he writes. He is a true artist.

However, this book is no walk in the park. Nor is this the type of book I would normally gravitate to. Life is hard enough than to read about injustice to such severity, it made my blood boil.

I honestly do not know how Damien Echols survived it, much less, remained the positive person he is today with all the hell he endured. What resilience.

He was falsely accused and convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. He and two others were accused of murdering three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. They did not do it. Someone else did and they still haven’t found out who.

Imagine being a teenager and spending 18  years on death row for a crime you didn’t commit? Being beaten by guards and surrounded by mentally ill inmates. Prison is full of the mentally ill who are not getting the help they need. They are put in prison to rot, meanwhile they are not well.

His memoir was difficult to read. I found myself disgusted, angry, sad, disillusioned and broken for him and all those who are on death row or in solitary confinement who are innocent.

I can’t find the words to describe how provoking this book is. This book describes the absolute brokenness of our prison system. It also sheds light on the corruption that exists in our court system.

If Damien Echols was standing in front of me today, I would apologize to him on behalf of all the Christians in his life that turned him away from Christ.

He depicts with such accuracy the judgmental and critical nature of Christians. While reading his experiences outside and inside of prison, I was embarrassed and ashamed. Instead of Christians being a light in his life, they were the complete opposite.

There is no other word to describe it other than disgusting.

I would tell Mr. Nichols, those were not followers of Christ. Those were lost, broken people, who were ignorant, confused and didn’t know an ounce about loving others.

As a result of this, he is not a Christian today. He became a buddhist in prison. He was treated better by Buddhists than Christians. After what he went through, I can’t quite blame him.

There was one part where he describes that when there was an execution scheduled, Christians would appear, but not on any other time. It was as if they enjoyed the excitement of someone being executed.

I can’t write it the way he describes it in his book. He is truly brilliant and a gifted writer. His writing is palatable for you see and feel everything.

I am glad he is free now and with his wife Lorri who helped him the most. There were many others, but she was the persistent one, who never gave up.

He also made mention that the prison system is designed for those to be forgotten by society, including family and friends. He said what gave him some hope and kept him going was receiving encouraging letters from strangers.

Overall, I would have to say this was the best book I read in 2013. Yes, it was the hardest to read, but it was most certainly the best. I highly recommend it, but it’s definitely not for the faint at heart.

Damien Echols was born in 1974 and grew up in Mississippi, Tennessee, Maryland, Oregon, Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. At age eighteen he was wrongfully convicted of murder, along with Jason Baldwin and Jessie Miskelley, Jr. Echols received a death sentence and spent almost eighteen years on Death Row, until he, Baldwin, and Miss Kelley were released in 2011. The West Memphis Three have been the subject of Paradise Lost, a three-part documentary series produced by HBO, and West of Memphis, a documentary produced by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. Echols is the author of a self-published memoir, Almost Home. He and his wife, Lorri Davis, live in Massachusetts.

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