Books that Don’t Make the List(s)

Posted: March 21, 2013 in Book Reviews

Below are books I’ve looked at but  just aren’t good enough to recommend and make my lists on the top of this site. However they might have value for some readers. 

Faryon, Cynthia. Sentenced to Life at Seventeen: the Story of David Milgaard. David Milgaard was imprisoned for twenty- three years for a rape and murder he did not commit.  The book opens with a short chapter about Larry Fisher, the actual rapist and murderer which sets the context of what truly happened. It then proceeds with portraits of the people involved and their activities leading up to and on the day of the murder: Milgaard, his friends, the victim, Larry Fisher’s wife, daughter and landlord – the latter who happened to be both mentally ill and  a friend of Milgaard’s. The portraits, along with a confluence of events in  time and place show what led to Milgaard’s  wrongful conviction.  Written well, using original sources, the book is straightforward and clear – a tough thing to do in such a short page count with all of the complexity and characters. While in prison, David was sexually assaulted, attempted suicide numerous times and  also escaped for seventy-seven days. While none of these are detailed, they provide a point of empathy as well as a feeling of action. Milgaard is one of several high profile cases of wrongful conviction in Canada written about in the Real Justice series. As the others in the series, the cover is a mishmash of colors and typefaces, but on the plus side, these books are accessible and easy to read. This particular story and photos – while still grainy and black and white – are better than the other books in the series and will have more immediate appeal for reluctant readers. –Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Oakland, CA

51Khj9-v6aLGobeille, Todd, with Soren Baker. My Journey Home: How I went from Pimping and Drug Pushing to Peace and Positivity. BakerGobeille Books 2012. Like many books of this genre, the majority of the pages detail the criminal cycle, with less than 1/4 of the book detailing the peace and positivity part. In between there is reflection and commentary, but not as much as I would like. For example, Gobielle was sexually molested as a youth. He says, “I was involved in sexual activity before I even knew what sexual activity was, or what it meant.”  The theme of his own exploitation, inability to deal with it, reenacting it with women and finally coming to terms with it in the end is mentioned,  however, the exploration and analysis is about covered in what I just wrote. He comes from an upper middle class white home. He talks about being the lone white man and some of his pride in being so – a white pimp and a white rapper  – somewhat unique in the  underworld he was a part of.  Through a series of lucky breaks, encounters with God as well as his own sobriety, he is able to make the transition to a Christian speaker, record producer and rapper. Clearly charismatic, he  does make it in the music world. His life and ministry has been documented and published in Vibe  (August 2005) and Source (May 2009) magazines. Blurry photos of before and after are in the back of the book.  For libraries serving people in prison, a heads up that he does detail how to create a fire with pencil lead and an electrical socket.

Griffin, Clare. Nowhere to Run .

Man-Up-179x300NOTE: Carlos came to our facility and was excellent. I highly recommend him. The book, however, needs a discussion group, at least with my population. 
GÓMEZ, Carlos Andrés. Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood. 279p.Gotham. 2012. Tr  $26. ISBN 978-1592-40778-1. LC 2012016449.   Adult/High School–Gómez is an exhilarating spoken word artist; his ability to drive words to a crescendo of insight is spectacular. This, his first book, shows his romantic and vulnerable side. A defining moment in Gómez’s commitment to the exploration of manhood occurred at 2 a.m. in a nightclub: he was face to face with a man he was about to fight when unbidden and unexpected tears sprung to his eyes. All of the men backed away from him as if a bomb had gone off. The book opens with Gómez taking his anger out on a hotel clerk, recognizing what he’s doing and apologizing. This leads to a beautiful connection between the two men. Gómez exposes (sometimes a bit too much of) his sexual life and some (sometimes not enough) of his questions about and explorations of what it means to be a man, to be vulnerable, to treat women well, and to deal personally with societal issues such as homophobia. Growing up bi-racial, the child of a United Nations diplomat and indigenous-rights advocate and living in many countries, he gained a fascinating perspective on race and America as well as gender roles. The “Code of Manhood” is not cracked in his book, as the subtitle might suggest, but it is explored. Teens will appreciate reading about some of his first sexual experiences–what teen doesn’t want to know the truth of the awkwardness?–but may get lost in some of the subtleties. This is a great choice for a book group discussion. Excerpts from the author’s solo spoken word play “Man Up” introduce each chapter.–Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA 

Iwenofu, Emeka. Jackie’s Miracle. Hope Point Press. 2012. 218p.  $19.99. 9780985532123. I tried to read this book and got to page 77. It’s an attempt to bring the laws of attraction to life, particularly for a young woman just getting out of prison, and there are parts of it that work – i.e. booklists of all the books on the topic such as Napolean Hill, Dale Carnegie, Og Mandino – all the books that I’ve experienced adult men in prison ask for. Jackie has had a horrendous upbringing that is chronicled in a run on sentence (not really but it feels like it) of two chapters. Then she gets out and miraculously is open, willing and trusting of her PO who is into the law of attraction and becomes her teacher and mentor. Anyway, it’s totally unrealistic. She provides Jackie with Dos and Don’ts list. Here’s two of the  Do’s: “Get a cleanse in all areas of the body (colon, gall bladder, liver and pancreas). Get a Candida yeast cleanse along with a fat cell cleanse.” The rest are equally unrealistic. There are few if any young women  coming out of  prison would be excited, eager, see the point and have the funds of following either the Do’s or Dont’s lists.

Souljah, Sister.  A Deeper Love Inside: The Porsche Santiaga Story. Atria. 2013. The Coldest Winter Ever (Pocket, 1999) by Sister Souljah is arguably one of the best books of life on the streets;  the voice of its protagonist, Winter, is flawless. Souljah knows how to write. This standalone sequel doesn’t come close. On the upside, the reader finds out what happened after the drug bust that destroyed life as Winter and her family knew it. Porsche, Winter’s younger sister, escapes from juvie with the help of a girl named Riot and her brother, Revolution. She reunites with her momma – who is now a crack addict – and she falls in love. On the downside, the plot is inauthentic and slow, predominately narration rather than action. As a result, there is little opportunity to form an emotional connection to the characters. Porsche, who is anywhere from 8 to 16 though the book, sounds as if she is 30 with a few exceptions. She seems to have multiple personalities, but the reader may be challenged in figuring that out. The metaphorical promise of Riot and Revolution’s names does not materialize. It’s a grim reality that close to 95% of girls living on the streets are sexually assaulted, yet Porsche escapes that fate, unrealistically amassing $50k by the time she is 14 by working at odd jobs, never being questioned by authorities or other adults. In the end, Porsche is married with two babies, happily cooking organic foods and loving her 18 year old husband. In spite of its lack of realism and disjointedness, fans of all ages have been waiting for this book and they will read it.  — Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

Swan, Bill. Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death: The story of Steven Truscott (and others in the Real Justice series) Truscott is one of Canada’s most famous victims of a wrongful conviction. At 14, he was sentenced to die by hanging for the rape and murder of 12-year-old Lynne Harper. It took more than 47 years for his complete exoneration. The book does a decent job of telling the story, but gets bogged down in the details of who said what and when something happened. Such details are necessary in a courtroom and to accurately tell what happened, but don’t make for the most interesting reading. On the plus side, these books are accessible and easy to read. However, the covers are a mishmash of colors and typefaces, and the grainy, out-of-focus, black-and-white snapshots that appear throughout are not likely to capture the interest of contemporary teens.-Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Oakland, CA

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