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A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison Hardcover – August 6, 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Avery; First Edition edition (August 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583333487
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583333488
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.1 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,005,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Dwayne Betts was incarcerated for 9 years in an unforgiving place?a place in which he also discovered the incredible power of books and reading. He's written his own life-changing book, which may well prevent other young men from making that detour to prison. A searing and ultimately uplifting story." Hill Harper, Best selling author of Letters to a Young Brother and Letters to a Young Sister.

"I'm so happy to have been introduced to the miracle that is R. Dwayne Betts' A Question of Freedom. It tells so many important stories: of senseless violence that plagues our streets, the devastating affect our prison system is having on so many young African-American males and the struggles we must all experience before we can find redemption. But perhaps most importantly, it's a story about the power of consciousness. A reminder that no matter how confining our surroundings might seem or how bleak our future might look, as long as we are in touch with our higher selves, we can always tap into both the compassion and the toughness that is in all of our hearts. Betts is a major new voice in hip-hop and I look forward to being inspired by him for years to come." Russell Simmons "A Question of Freedom is a must-read and should be required reading for all those young sons and grandsons and brothers and nephews and uncles who believe this can't happen to them; it can, even if they can't wrap their brains around such a concept." - Baltimore Times

About the Author


is graduate student at Warren Wilson College, where he has been awarded the Holden Fellowship. Shortly after his release from prison, The Washington Post published a feature article about him and a book club he founded for at-risk young men called YoungMenRead. He teaches poetry at several public schools in the D.C. metro area, has had his poetry published in many national literary journals, and contributed an essay to the anthology It's All Love.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 34 customer reviews
An absolute must read.
C. Mintz
His book provides a full account of the how, what, where and when of his experience.
David R. Anderson
My son, and nephews all have copies of this book.
A. Thompson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Liz Powers on August 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"A Question of Freedom" is a must read! This is an amazing testament to R. Dwayne Betts' resiliency and determination and exposes the failure of laws that passed in the 1990's to prosecute and lock up more kids in the adult criminal justice system. Dwayne is a gifted writer and his writing gives us incredible insights into how the criminal justice system really works. The author will be speaking on a book tour and dates/times can be found on his website at: [...] Congratulations to R. Dwayne Betts for his amazing work!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Gagnon on September 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here's the story about an intelligent kid (not a thug) that grew up in a predominately Black area. The one older person he admires tells him how he got revenge on the police that abused him by carjacking "a whitey". Having never spoken to a white person himself, Betts honors his Peer by imitating his crime.
He is sentenced to 9 years in an adult prison, where he spends the majority of his time, improving himself while seeking out (the knowledge) that will appease his desire to understand who he really is. Transferred from one prison to another, some bad some not so bad, he experiences a series of epiphanies, that mark his progress, told in such a way that can only be described as remarkable. He gets into trouble and goes to confinement frequently to read and contemplate his goals with less distraction. Towards the end of his sentence he teaches himself another language and describes prison as the most culturally diverse place he'd been to up to that point. But through it all he describes his time as being very alone. Betts did his time his way and left the same way he came in "alone". "VENI VIDI VICI!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By sandra martin on January 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I read this book for answers as to why so many young men make bad choices that land them in prison. One can see prison as a logical destination for somebody with poor schooling and few marketable skills. The three hots and a cot plus health benefits that prison offers might be a better prospect than anything else. But R. Dwight Betts was different. An honor student with no criminal record, Betts was on the college track not the prison track. Yet, prison was where he was sent, at the age of 16, for carjacking. The judge gave him nine years (He could have received 5 years for robbery, 3 years for use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and 15 years for carjacking. Perhaps Betts' age and scholastic achievements helped reduce his sentence). Betts does an adequate job of describing those nine years. But, no where in the book does he explain why he committed the crime. There is, however, a kind of epiphany in one of the last chapters, when Betts observes another young inmate in for carjacking. Pondering the stupidity of such an act, Betts concludes, "There's no money in it. Just glorified joyriding". One wonders why he didn't realize that before he decided to pull a gun on a man sleeping in his car.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Doc Mays on August 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Reminds me of Demico Boothe's WHY ARE SO MANY BLACK MEN IN PRISON? Why Are So Many Black Men in Prison? A Comprehensive Account of How and Why the Prison Industry Has Become a Predatory Entity in the Lives of African-American Men and is a must read for sure! I just love to see young black men who have endured extreme hardships and grown from their experiences try to spread positive hopeful messages to others who need the inspiration to not give up. Kudos for this young author and this book's message!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Aco on February 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Coming home on a Friday, late at night, my wife and I caught R. Dwayne Betts on PBS's Tavis Smiley, and were floored at his presence, his story and his attitude. I went online and ordered the book from my library the next day. While the quality of the writing is not exceptional, the arc of the tale follows well his transformation (as it is based on journals he kept) from a caught-up teenager to a wise young man. A one-time carjacker, Betts struggles immediately to explain even to himself the reason for his crime. He eventually becomes a self taught no-excuses guy who learns that he can learn from his time in prison, and seems to take full advantage.
One of the aspects of Betts' interview with Smiley that truly captured me was his emphasis on reading. I, like I feel many young men do, have exercised my imagination about what prison life is like. Film and television provide the majority of the popular opinion about prison. Fear of prison is a very powerful motivator, its reputation exists with a wide current of the horror of rape and violence. That violence has a palpable effect on people. I always told myself that if I had to go to prison there are only two things I'd try to anticipate looking forward too: exercising and reading. In a place where trusting others is as dangerous as it is necessary, these are two things that one can manage and take pride in. Betts does both. Reading about Betts self education was a real highlight of this book. It proved to me that his mentality and spirit were shaped for the better by prison, which, despite its myriad of indignities and horrors and punishments, needs to be its aim. As such, Dwayne Betts is a success story and that feels good to learn about.
I'd wholly recommend this to kids, high school aged especially. As well, you can follow Betts on Facebook.
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