A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison

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Penguin, Aug 6, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 256 pages
2 Reviews
A unique prison narrative that testifies to the power of books to transform a young man's life

At the age of sixteen, R. Dwayne Betts-a good student from a lower- middle-class family-carjacked a man with a friend. He had never held a gun before, but within a matter of minutes he had committed six felonies. In Virginia, carjacking is a "certifiable" offense, meaning that Betts would be treated as an adult under state law. A bright young kid, he served his nine-year sentence as part of the adult population in some of the worst prisons in the state.

A Question of Freedom chronicles Betts's years in prison, reflecting back on his crime and looking ahead to how his experiences and the books he discovered while incarcerated would define him. Utterly alone, Betts confronts profound questions about violence, freedom, crime, race, and the justice system. Confined by cinder-block walls and barbed wire, he discovers the power of language through books, poetry, and his own pen. Above all, A Question of Freedom is about a quest for identity-one that guarantees Betts's survival in a hostile environment and that incorporates an understanding of how his own past led to the moment of his crime.

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User Review  - whitewavedarling - LibraryThing

More an informal collection of recollections than memoir, this work reads something like a selection of blog entries related to reading and prison, only the very beginning and the very ending standing ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mariabiblioteca - LibraryThing

I read this book in my capacity as the co-chair of the university's Common Experience committee. Given that our theme for the next academic year focuses on social issues and social justice, I think this book would be a good selection for our common reading. Read full review



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About the author (2009)

R. Dwayne Betts was raised the only child of a single mother in Suitland, MD. At sixteen years old he carjacked a man and began the journey that would end with a nine year prison sentence in some of the toughest adult prisons in Virginia.

The day he was released Dwayne walked into the world committed to proving his life wouldn’t be reduced to the thirty seconds he held a gun in his hand. Since that day, Dwayne has had his poetry published in many national literary journals and contributed an essay to Marita Golden’s anthology It’s All Love. He has been awarded the Holden Fellowship from MFA program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. A Cave Canem fellow, his poetry has appeared in Ploughshares, Crab Orchard Review and Poet Lore among others. He is a Breadloaf Writer’s Conference scholarship recipient and a graduate of Prince George’s Community College in Largo, MD and the University of Maryland in College Park, MD. He was recently given the honor of addressing his fellow graduates. In May, 2010, his book of poems, Shahid Reads His Own Palm will be published by Alice James Books.

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