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A Place to Stand Paperback – June 10, 2002
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When he enters New Mexico's Florence State Prison in 1973, convicted on a drug charge, Baca is 21 and has a long history of trouble with the law. There's no reason to think jail will do anything but turn him into a hardened criminal, and standing up for himself with guards and menacing fellow cons quickly gains him a reputation as a troublemaker. But there have already been hints that this turbulent young man is looking for a way out, as he painstakingly spells out a poem from a clerk's college textbook while awaiting trial or unsuccessfully tries to get permission to take classes in prison.
When a volunteer from a religious group sends him a letter, contact with the written word unleashes something in Baca, who starts writing letters and poems with the aid of a dictionary. Reading literature shows him possibilities for understanding his painful family background and expressing his feelings. Poetry literally saves him from being a murderer, as Baca stands over another convict with an illegal weapon, ready to finish him off, and hears "the voices of Neruda and Lorca... praising life as sacred and challenging me: How can you kill and still be a poet?" Baca has a year to go on his sentence, but the reader knows at that point he has made a choice that will alter his destiny.
Without softening the brutality of life in jail, Baca expresses great tenderness for the men there who helped him and affirms his commitment to writing poetry for them, "telling the truth about the life that prisoners have to endure." --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
A PLACE TO STAND is a memoir of Jimmy's childhood of abandonment, his career selling drugs, and his time in prison. This is also an account of how an illiterate prisoner fought for the privilege to teach himself how to read--and then to write, by corresponding with Harry, a Christian man on the outside, and by writing poems for other cons in exchange for books.
This is not a pretty history. The epilogue tells the shocking tale of his mother's fate. Racism plays its usual dirty role through much of the book. And JSB's account of prison life makes most prison movies look almost civilized. (In an interview with Jimmy in a Santa Fe arts newspaper, he said that he even toned it down for this book because many people cannot accept the harsh truth of prison culture.)
This book is an inspiration to all writers and a testimony to the human spirit. Visit Jimmy's Website to read about his work with at-risk teenagers as founder of Black Mesa Enterprises. And if you haven't yet experienced his poetry, try it first on CD. His readings will blow you away.
Personally, I did enjoy reading the novel and liked the contents. I found his life story to be extremely rough/ violent and liked reading about the path he had to take to be where he is now. Baca ends up in prison in which he has to serve his time and manage to do it without being killed. While serving his time he manages to teach himself how to read and write poetry as well. This novel is packed with surprises, drama, and suspense, and the reader will not want to put it down until the end.
The only negative aspect of the novel which I personally did not like was Baca's poetic touch and his tendency to be extremely detailed. The reason why I did not like those two writing methods of the author is because it took away from the scene at hand. At some points the author was so detailed that you lose track of what he was originally talking about. Even though I did not like those two writing methods he used the book was overall very interesting and I would defiantly recommend it to someone.
I just finished this rather remarkable memoir by poet Jimmy Santiago Baca. We heard him interviewed on NPR, and got hold of his book, and several volumes of his poetry. A Place to Stand tells of a life that starts in poverty, and descends into degradation, in this case, drug dealing, that winds our protagonist up in prison. It covers the several years he spends there, up to and through his release at approximately age 25.
What is the comeback? Stealing a book from a sadistic guard who was also a college student, Baca teaches himself to read, grasps the power of the image, the power of literature, especially poetry, and sorts out his life. Eventually, he becomes a celebrated poet, but that happens later.
The book is variously described in various places as "raw," "searing," "violent." It is all these things and more. It has the most important quality of a book: it is extremely difficult to put down. The author is so transparent and forthcoming with the gritty details of his life, he has you in his grip from the get-go. Yet, a reservation or two, if I may. The writer seems to take responsibility for his life, but almost imperceptibly, pulls back just a bit, i.e. there is always a reason. Whenever possible, he lays off the blame for his crimes to abandonment, loss, heartache. There is always a powerful rationalization process going on, 24/7 as it were, and it is presented to you, the reader, in such an appealing fashion, the enormity of his crimes, and the flotsam and jetsam of human lives he has ruined gets glossed over. This is unfortunate, to say the least.
His depiction of prison life is eye-opening, unforgettable, and harrowing.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I first came across Jimmy's work in a poetry class. Captured by his biography, I read on. His writings are beautiful and have wonderful imagery. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Julie Mares
very good quality! ordered a used book and looks practically new! 😃Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
I did not like this book. It seemed to devote much time to re-living the author's criminal history, little to his reformation. Read morePublished 5 months ago by MacDonald Counseling Services, PLLC