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There have been a lot of prison memoirs published over the last decade There is much to be learned from these memoirs, and it s important that there is space for these experiences to be heard, but some are skillfully told than others Senghor is a talented, thoughtful writer who avoids too much sentimentality and portrays his experience critically and with an eye toward criminal justice reform writ large, and not just as it applies to his own story I am teaching a unique course this semester the first at my university that invites campus undergrads and incarcerated college students to co learn together in a prison classroom We ll read one book together as a large group Reading with Patrick A Teacher, a Student, and a Life Changing Friendship and small groups read an additional book, including this one Students are asked to read each title through the lens of the American Dream Did Senghor ever have access to the American Dream as we define it as a nation Did he have access to an American Dream that was distinctly his own Are there systemic obstacles that prevent him from achieving that dream Are there ways we, as individuals and as communities, can overhaul or re design how all Americans gain access to that dream If the American Dream is about working hard, did Senghor accomplish the hard work necessary to earn the dream, and was it, in the end, awarded I can t wait to hear how our students wrestle with these questions incredibly readable and engaging Senghor details the circumstances of his life that led to his shooting and killing a man, and what it took to redeem himself by both his own standards and society s standards A hard look at what prison life is like and how difficult it is to emerge with your sanity and dignity intact I m so glad I read this. DOWNLOAD KINDLE ♃ Writing My Wrongs ♍ In , Shaka Senghor Was Sent To Prison For Second Degree Murder Today, He Is A Lecturer At Universities, A Leading Voice On Criminal Justice Reform, And An Inspiration To ThousandsIn Life, It S Not How You Start That Matters It S How You Finish Shaka Senghor Was Raised In A Middle Class Neighborhood On Detroit S East Side During The Height Of The S Crack Epidemic An Honor Roll Student And A Natural Leader, He Dreamed Of Becoming A Doctor But At Age , 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 , 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 FestivalIn 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 I vacillated between 4 and 5 stars but ultimately, this book is a solid 4 because while it is a compelling, engaging read, it doesn t radically stand out from any other redemption story out there Redemption stories are, by their very nature, predictably full of plot lines that crest, dip then crest again However, this is the first time that I ve really understood how the prison system is designed to rob people of their humanity The constant upheaval, the threat of violence from all corners, the social isolation all of this serves to set inmates up to fail Should someone be punished for committing a crime Yes Should someone be made to feel that there s no hope for change No What good does it do to return angry, demoralized people to society Not much, as far as I can tell, and neither can Shaka Senghor, who has made it his mission in life to help children find a way to express their anger, frustration and disappointment without succumbing to violence So read this book for the story itself, and for a reality check. I read this book concurrently with Just Mercy, and it occurred to me partway through that while I d read books like that one that dealt with the prison industrial complex, bias, and wrongful convictions, and I d read books about people held captive for other reasons, I hadn t that I could remember read a memoir by a person who served a prison sentence for a crime he fully admits to committing It s one thing to hear the worst case scenarios about prison life from an author trying to shock you into fomenting for change, and another to hear about the day after day experience of someone who spent 19 years behind bars It was enlightening in a way no other book I d read about prisons had been.For one thing, I was surprised at how often Senghor was transferred to a different facility sometimes because his security level was being lowered or raised, but often for no discernible reason I was also fascinated by the ingenuity of the prisoners to devise means of communication, even between people in solitary confinement I couldn t believe how easy and common it was for prisoners to make weapons and attack other prisoners I got a better sense of what resources prisoners had access to and how that changed depending on their security level and their behavior.Senghor s story is not a simplistic one day I saw the light and I never misbehaved again narrative, though it would likely be condensed as such if someone else was summarizing his story He did have several awakening moments when he felt responsibility for his son, when he learned to forgive himself, when he discovered how writing could help him process the trauma of his childhood, when he found hope that he might be released but these were followed by setbacks as he still felt justified in attacking others at times I felt this provided a realistic picture in how hard it was to overcome the patterns that had been ingrained in him since childhood.For most of the book, it flips back and forth from his life in prison to his life on the streets up to the time of his arrest I thought this firsthand account was valuable for understanding why Senghor turned to selling drugs, why he chose to carry a gun, even why he panicked and shot someone He does not excuse his past behavior, but he does provide a full picture that could help dismantle some people s stereotypes about prisoners, drug dealers, etc I did not find the back and forth to be confusing, and I think it was the right choice for a engaging narrative than providing a straightforward, chronological narrative.Senghor s writing is pretty good aside from his over the top use of similes, which became grating after a while I am interested to read his fiction and see how it compares to his memoir writing I listened to this book on audio, narrated by the author, and while I got used to his fairly flat affect, I would still recommend reading this in print.This gave me a lot to think about, and I m grateful to Senghor for putting together the story of his life and for Whitney for bringing this book to my attention If you ve never read a firsthand account of what it s like to serve a long prison sentence, this is worth a read. Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison.That subtitle rings true throughout the entire book.James White, Pumpkin, Jay Only 19 years old and his life is about to change.He knew he was going to prison the night he shot to kill He knew his life was virtually over when he had just made a new one He knew Brenda was going to raise their baby alone while he sat in a prison cell His lawyer promised 10 years, but he was sentenced to 40 years behind bars.He had been dealing crack and running around the hood since he was 14 He was shot at 17 He killed at 19 He never wanted this life, but what else could he do with a mommy that didn t want him and a daddy that was never around Prison took its toll on Jay But he eventually found himself, importantly he finally found the strength to forgive himself and apologize for what he had done He needed closure, but that closure didn t find him until almost 10 years into his sentence He was willing to change and for that, I applaud him He didn t deserve this life, his family didn t deserve it, his victim didn t deserve it This memoir is told through alternating past and present We see James become Jay We see who Jay is in prison We see the two personalities slowing merging into one We see why he felt a certain way and why he reacted the way he did He was part of a Brotherhood he felt the need to uphold He wanted to mend the broken and feed the poor He wanted everyone to be accepted within the laws of the jungle That is how he found himself.Through his brothers.Through his father.Through Lil Jay.Through Ebony.For that, he will always be thankful.Big shout out to Blogging for Books for sending me a copy of Writing My Wrongs Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison This review and can be found at A Reader s Diary My students and I have been reading this really important book this semester, hot off the shelf It never fails, as with all of Shaka s books, it is the one reading they ALL get into Afterwards, they are able to put all the pieces together of the things I have had them read and watch and think about in the course A must read for sociologists, criminal justice majors, teachers, and all parents Congratulations, Shaka Senghor on this life changing work It is the blueprint on how we might read and WRITE ourselves into a new way of being human.Much love in struggle,Karen Gagne While I admire the way this troubled youth found his way back to a normal society, I wasn t thrilled with the writing. Title Writing My Wrongs Life, Death, and Redemption in an American PrisonPublished March 8, 2016Author Shaka Senghor288 PagesThe Review Writing My WrongsShaka Senghor s memoir, Writing My Wrongs, exemplifies an emotional expos , riddled with confessions that enlighten the audience and gives a human face to the incarcerated What I was expecting was another book of distorted and dehumanizing criminology, basking in some super imposed and caustically tainted surreal world The thing is, I got that and much, much than I imagined I got an understanding.The book is straight forward, no smoke and mirrors, optical illusions, or sleight of hand There is no need for advanced degrees or unabridged dictionaries Needed is an open mind, and the desire to delve into the place that is misunderstood Senghor writes from the heart from a place that he didn t know existed, and because of that discovery, the sincerity pours from every page.Senghor writes I STARED AT THE BATTLE SCARRED IMAGE IN FRONT OF ME AND KNEW I NEEDED TO BEGIN THE LONG, TEDIOUS PROCESS OF MAKING PEACE WITH MY PAST I OPENED UP DEEP WOUNDS THAT HAD BEEN STUFFED WITH THE GAUZE OF ANGER AND SELF HATRED I FORGAVE ALL OF THE PEOPLE, WHO HAD TEASED ME IN MY CHILDHOOD, MAKING FUN OF MY JACK O LANTERN SIZED HEAD BY CALLING ME PUMPKIN I FORGAVE EVERYONE WHO HAD MADE FUN OF MY GAP TOOTHED SMILE I RAN MY HAND THROUGH MY LONG DREADLOCKS AND FORGAVE EVERYONE WHO EVER CALLED ME NAPPY HEADED, MAKING ME FEEL INSECURE ABOUT THE CROWN MY CREATOR HAD BESTOWED UPON ME THE WORDS FROM MY PAST RICOCHETED AROUND IN MY MIND LIKE ERRANT BULLETS, HURTING NO LESS NOW THAN THEY HAD BACK THEN Senghor s tale is a familiar one familiar, perhaps, if you re a part of the PoC planet Familiar, even if you have never lived on that planet It is inherent spiritual transcending caste, gender, and often race We just understand it better than most His introduction reveals that there s a depth to the mentality of the convicted, a depth he knew long before the was behind bars I OPENED UP DEEP WOUNDS THAT HAD BEEN STUFFED WITH THE GAUZE OF ANGER AND SELF HATRED He was the victim, since birth, of suspicion, profiling and humanity viewed as sub human and questioned so vehemently that he eventually questioned himself The beauty is that Senghor did not sweeten the story he told it, from the guts and grime of his grim reality He gave the reader, while walking them through chambers of secrets, the gore, and the glorified details, but accepted responsibility for his actions holding himself accountable while seeking something greater than himself And because he was so viewed, he opted to fulfill the illusion.Shaka Senghor explains where and how his psychological odyssey began of how his mother kicked him out of their home, how he solicited money from strangers to eat and laid his head wherever his head was allowed to lay He besieged us with a profile of how desperate measures and the need to be a part of some greater ensemble leads to unimaginable outcomes The reader is made cognizant of matters that draw the path to desperation Was he always desperate I cannot say that he was, nor can it be accurately surmised if the lifestyle he chose was fulfilling some greater void Perhaps, the transformation from pauper to low level prince provided him a false sense of prosperity and worthiness But, he equally tells of the functionality and normality of his childhood home He states that the arguments between his mother and father were, perhaps, no different than those in any other household, until his parent decided to separate.WHEN HE FINALLY EXPLAINED THAT HE WOULD BE MOVING TO A PLACE IN HIGHLAND PARK THAT COMING WEEKEND, ALL KINDS OF THOUGHTS BEGAN FLOWING THROUGH MY YOUNG MIND THOUGHTS ABOUT MY FATHER AND ALL THAT HE MEANT TO OUR HOUSEHOLD I THOUGHT ABOUT THE HOLIDAYS AND HOW HE WOULD ORGANIZE US KIDS TO PUT UP THE CHRISTMAS TREE I THOUGHT ABOUT HOW HE WOULD GIVE US AN ALLOWANCE EVERY OTHER SATURDAY SO THAT WE COULD GO SKATING AT ROYAL SKATELAND I THOUGHT ABOUT THE SOUND OF HIM PULLING INTO THE DRIVEWAY EACH NIGHT AT APPROXIMATELY 11 45 P.M WHEN HE GOT OFF WORK.I WAS SCARED IT WAS AS THOUGH EVERYTHING THAT SYMBOLIZED FAMILY AND STABILITY HAD BEEN SUCKED OUT OF THE ROOM.Fear was a lingering theme, an irrefutable manta Senghor was afraid, even when he showed no fear murder, solitary confinement, and parole review boards He was afraid of being a better student, a better son, a better father, and a better man Issues that festered in his community settled in his head and left him figuratively sitting shoeless on the curb with officers standing at the ready my words He wanted what everyone else wanted, yet circumstances of his own creation disallowed him the opportunity.It was the murder he committed that seemed to be his free fall spiral of change As a convicted murderer, the confinement was real The long prison sentence would have only two outcomes Constructive or Destructive He initially took the common road, but the practice was not worth the punishment So, he changed course he discovered books, discovered words, rediscovered himself, and began to write Fear redirected his path, strongly dictated his destiny, allowed him to succeed in prison, made him invisible and ultimately made him a writer Fear saved his life.Shaka Senghor made many people those who have read his book and those who have listened to his lectures realize that there exists a human being beneath the orange, yellow, green, gray, or black and white striped jumpsuits He needed to forgive and be forgiven, to love and be deeply loved in return Indeed hardened men abound behind bars, but emotions are often powerful than circumstance When all seemed lost he found forgiveness and a ride or die love Emotions carried him through.Read Writing the Wrongs Get entangled in its complex web and enlighten yourself with what might otherwise be dark It is a redemption song a symphony of hope, and, even if it doesn t perfectly fit in your idea of good literature, worth excavating for its many hidden treasures. Full post at Form Review Author Shaka Senghor provides an insightful look into prison life, contextualizing it with personal anecdotes from his youth Purposeful and inspirational, readers learn exactly how one learns to love and forgive after committing murder.Five years into his sentence for a murder resulting from a drug interaction gone awry, author Shaka Senghor received a letter Sent from the victim s godmother, the letter expressed both her forgiveness of his transgression, and her hope that he found peace.Tonight, I had the opportunity to ask where he thought he d be if he hadn t received that letter Pausing to think about the question, his initial reply was a simple, I honestly don t know Pausing again, he continued by adding that it was this letter that gave him the space and the closure he needed to begin forgiving himself for taking a life The letter softened his heart, which had been hardened from years on the street compounded by years behind.Senghor served almost two decades in prison after being sentenced at 19 years old, and spent seven of those in solitary confinement Writing My Wrongs is not an necessarily indictment of his sentence he admits having committed the crime, and takes responsibility for his actions Instead, Senghor uses his story to illustrate the linkages between his youth and his adulthood Readers are taken through his disappointment with his on again off again parents, his fear as a 14 year old entrenched in drug dealing, and his shame at his 11 year old son finally finding out why he was incarcerated.Disappointment, fear, and shame were dominant feelings in his youth, but Senghor develops passion as an adult Senghor passion to do right by his sons and his fellow inmates Listening to Senghor speak tonight, all that remained was an overwhelming sense of purpose He spoke eloquently about his position on prison related policies, such as President Obama s effort to reduce youths in solitary confinement But he also got into the nitty gritty Into subjects those who haven t spent excessive time in prison wouldn t know to discuss Recounting his last few days of imprisonment, Senghor recalls that only began to really receive help preparation for his release 60 days prior Nineteen years in jail, and they give you 60 days to get your life together, he said, before detailing how things like this play into high American recidivism rates.Literacy not prison, saved Senghor Long days and nights in prison repeatedly bested him, further and further away from the moral code he d hoped to live by If nothing else Writing My Wrongs shows that prison life brings out the best in nobody Reading books such as the Autobiography of Malcolm X, and even religious texts such as the Bible, were what grounded him Writing was equally as powerful, allowing him to connect the dots between his past adolescent anger and his current adult fury When he finally got out of prison, writing is how he decided he would make a difference.I gave this book a 4 out of 5 Those with an interest in mass incarceration issues and other issues associated with poverty and drugs should put this at the top of your list It s mandatory However, it s worth stressing that it s appeal is wider than those with a niche interest such as myself Universal themes such as justice, forgiveness, and failure not in that order make this a book fit for any shelf.And hell, if Oprah is reading it, you should probably at least give the dust cover a skim, right That said, check out his interview with Oprah this Sunday on Super Soul Sunday.