From Publishers Weekly
Part personal memoir and part narrative of a groundbreaking prison literacy program, this book will probably be compared to Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking. While in marital counseling, Roberts, a dentist and stunt flyer, realized he wanted to make dramatic changes in his life. He returned to school to pursue a doctorate in psychology and became interested in the work of self-help gurus including M. Scott Peck. He then helped start a project at Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, La., with 50 prisoners, where he befriended one of the prisoners, who helped him run the program. Roberts writes of being genuinely moved as the prisoners discuss their experiences. The rest of the book outlines Roberts's overwhelmingly positive experiences at the prison until the warden starts sabotaging his efforts. Ultimately, Roberts's life is dramatically transformed by his prison work, and he ends up starting Project Return, a community-based program. Roberts's emotional attachment to his work is evident in his strong, evocative writing. The narrative isn't without flaws: the introspection about middle-age crisis feels tired, for instance. Yet this worthwhile, important book offers a bright, optimistic window onto the often horrific conditions that still exist in prisons today.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From the Inside Flap
Spiritual journeys sometimes take us in a direction we never considered. Bob Roberts led him downward, to shovel ashes from the smoldering fires of hatred and racism in a Louisiana prison, in a circle of fifty angry men.
Roberts had everythinga successful dental practice, a wife and children, and a comfortable, affluent lifestyle. He was a thrill-seeker who sought the adrenaline rush of stunt flying and racecar driving. Then something happened: much as the death-spiral moves he executed in his plane, his life spun out of control. He sought counseling to repair his failing marriage, sending him along a completely different path. While in therapy, Roberts became intrigued by the human psyche and its capacity for healing and went back to school to earn masters degree in clinical social work and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. Here he became connected with the community-building work of renowned psychiatrist and author M. Scott Peck. Peck mentored Roberts and encouraged him to begin his spiritual journey through exploring this type of work. Roberts decided to try the community-building process out in the unlikeliest of places: Louisianas Dixon Correctional Institution. Here his life was forever transformed, as would be the lives of hundreds of inmates and former offenders.
In this compelling memoir, you will be propelled with Roberts into an unforgettable journey behind prison walls. It is an astonishing voyage into Roberts heart and his conscience through the experiences of societys forgotten peoplerepeat offenders who had lost all hope of making a life for themselves outside of jail. What began as a literacy program evolves into sessions of shared soul-searching, grief work, and a celebration of prisoners ancient cultural roots through drumming and traditional African storytelling. Set amidst the brutality and humiliation of prison, together they find a haven for healing and transformation; to the rhythm of the collective drumbeat they discover the unique song within themselves that had been silenced by years of abuse, addiction, self-hatred and hostility.
Exploring the darkest terrain of violence and human suffering, and the brightest regions of redemption, human dignity and hope, My Soul Said to Me will change forever your view of criminal justice, your appreciation of deep relationships and freedom, and your ability to determine your own future. It is a story of deceit and honesty, cowardice and courage, prejudice and acceptance. Most importantly, it is the story of the power of friendship and the ability that lies within each of us to create beauty in the world through commitment, determination, and the understanding that all of our souls came here for a reason.