Thursday, September 18, 2008

Snapshot Book Review: True Notebooks

True Notebooks: A Writer's Year at Juvenile Hall True Notebooks: A Writer's Year at Juvenile Hall by Mark Salzman

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book is most definitely one of my new all-time favorites. I have never read a white guy write so honestly about his own awkwardness and fears when confronting kids of not only different races and backgrounds, but life experiences and potentially moral/ethic codes, as well. Of course, what especially appealed to me was the fact that all of this reflection and discovery takes place within the verbal realm. Salzman goes into the juvenile penal system to start a writing class and ends up learning what it means to "jack someone's shit" or to be a "buster." He presents the inmates' writing very straightforwardly and without embellishment: yes, they do write about being baller and tagging shit and throwing up gang signs and women with big titties. But they also write about their mothers, about loneliness, about freedom, and about selfhood in raw, straight-on ways that most Great Writers would never in a million years be able to replicate.

In short, this is a refreshing spin on the memoir genre, as well as a book that has actually made me rethink teaching and nonprofit work. Perhaps I could be happy teaching writing. This book, at least, makes me long for the kind of fulfillment Salzman experiences.

View all my reviews.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

One of the University of Pittsburgh Press's creative writing authors, Richard Shelton, has been teaching creative writing--mostly poetry--in the prisons of Arizona for almost his entire career. Some of his own poetry reveals his experiences there. It's amazing reading. (Of course, he also teaches at a university--to pay his bills.)