I have been on a serious non-fiction kick of late. A lot of what I have been reading has been about jails and people who were or are incarcerated. This book, Writings My Wrongs, by Shaka Senghor, is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is a memoir about a lost boy who grows up in crack-infested Detroit and ends up in prison for killing someone.
The book shifts back and forth in time, from his prison cell to the streets he grew up on and back again. When Mr. Sneghor was young, he ended up on the streets selling crack after his parents’ marriage crumbled. He observes that his parents understood that he needed love and attention, he may not have ended where he did. But he is also astute enough to take responsibility for his own actions.
He is finally able to forgive himself, his family and release the anger that threatens to eat him alive. It is that point in the book that he really shines. He tells a story of trying to maintain a nonviolent posture in a world (prison) surrounded by violence. He tells a vivid story of his confinement and especially his four and a half years in solitary confinement for assaulting a correctional officer. He manages to make you feel the paranoia, fear, corruption, violence, noise of the prison. His words will stay with me for a very long time.
He meets a woman in prison through the HOPE project, with whom he falls in love. They are still together. He writes about the importance of being and having a father. The importance of family support, including his dad attended all his parole hearings. And his realization that his crimes affected so many more than just him and his victim. It affected his parents, his children, the victim’s family. When he finally is able to forgive himself, amazing things happen.
I think that it’s easy to ignore the ravages of drugs and poverty in this country because so many of us live so far away from it. But it’s destruction of a generation of African-American men and women is undeniable. This book brings that home. From a little boy who wanted to be a doctor to a man incarcerated for taking another life, to someone redeemed. It is quite the journey. I highly recommend this book.