What we're reading: Writing My Wrongs

"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 19-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. 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.” – Indigo Books

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From our book clubs

Writing My Wrongs is a remarkable book of hope and redemption within the American prison system. Several book club members found it to be a realistic representation of life within the Canadian system as well, particularly at maximum prisons. Some found the subject matter difficult to read while incarcerated, but many said it was one of the best books they had read all year, and they appreciated its hopeful message.

All book club members could relate to the story. One said family and support is important, but that he has had no family visit for 2 years. Discussion was described by one facilitator as filled with “deep, raw and poignant moments”, and even some tears.

In one women’s book club, every member shared, and three stayed on after everyone else left to continue sharing their life stories. The facilitator was struck by their need to talk, even about difficult things.

In one of the men’s groups, many felt the Senghor had done what he had to do to survive. They also felt that he found redemption during his time in prison. When asked if they thought prison ‘saved’ Senghor, one group response was a resounding yes, and added that prison has saved them too. Some members talked about the value of journaling and reading – which helped Senghor during his time and has helped them as well. But in another club, members discussed how difficult the prison environment is and said you could come out a diamond, or a piece of coal.

Writing My Wrongs provoked thoughtful discussion about the justice system and the value of seeking redemption and living hope for a better future.

Highly recommended!