Monday, November 11, 2013

A Question of Freedom by R. Dwayne Betts

“By eighteen I’d been shuffled between a county jail, a prison intake center and three prisons.  I’d been in isolation for thirty-five days and segregation for six months.  I’d been at the prison deemed the warehouse for Virginia’s most violent and dangerous criminals. . . . Red Onion was a level six, a super max.”  (184-5)

While structurally challenging, A Question of Freedom, Betts’ memoir of his years incarcerated after a carjacking at age 16, is undeniably relevant for many, if not most, incarcerated detained youth in New York City.  A Question of Freedom takes its reader on Betts’ harrowing journey through the cold, impersonal corrections system in Virginia and relays the author’s observations and emotional development as a young man.  A cautionary tale for young people who have not yet lost their freedom; an inspiring journey for those who can make it through the two hundred plus pages and appreciate where Betts is today along with the hard lessons he has learned.  A Question of Freedom is a recommended addition to the non-fiction collection of any teacher of urban young men.  Mature independent readers will find this text to be of interest, and it also may be appeal to book clubs, especially in excerpted form. --Jessica Fenster-Sparber

Penguin offers a discussion guide to A Question of Freedom here.

Betts, R. Dwayne.  A Question of Freedom.  New York: Penguin, 2010.  Print.

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