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Comment: This item is in good condition. All pages and covers are readable. There are no stains or tears. Dust jacket is present if applicable. May contain small amounts of writing and/or highlighting. Spine and cover may show signs of wear. May not contain supplementary items. We ship within 1 business day. Big Hearted Books shares its profits with schools, churches and non-profit groups throughout New England. Thank you for your support!
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A Place to Stand Paperback – June 10, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Anyone who doubts the power of the written word to transform a life will know better after reading poet Jimmy Santiago Baca's wrenching memoir of his troubled youth and the five-year jail stint that turned him around.

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

While readers may find Baca's poetry more dazzling than this prose memoir about how he became a poet, the author still manages to capture both the reader's interest and sympathies. Baca traverses his life, starting with his childhood in rural New Mexico where both parents essentially abandoned him his adolescence in "juvee" halls and his days as a drug dealer. The story leads up to an account of five years in a maximum-security prison in Arizona, and the unusual personal transformation that occurs there through his learning to read and write; eventually, he discovers his poetic voice. The text is structured like a conversion narrative in which Baca's past symbolizes all that is unhealthy and his poetry-oriented future is filled with the hope and optimism that come from discovering something divine in the midst of darkness. The darkness is often literal, as when Baca is describing his lengthy solitary confinements. He also recounts the intricacies of prison politics, in which failure to gain respect and alliances forged with the wrong people can mean death. Oddly, certain story lines are simply dropped along the way, such as his charge that the prison was lacing his food with strong psychoactive drugs. It is too bad that Baca's prose is frequently flat ("Poetry enhanced my self-respect. It provided me with a path for exploring possibilities for life's enrichment that I follow to this day"), especially when reflecting upon abstract topics, since the content of his story is so interesting and his poetry simply shines. (July) Forecast: Baca has won a Pushcart Prize, among other awards, including his title as a one-time champion of the International Poetry Slam. A 12-city tour will win him fans and sell more books.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (June 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802139086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802139085
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Jimmy Santiago Baca is the recipient of major awards for his raw and emotional poetry. In my opinion, these awards are more special than the average literary awards: They've been earned by a man whose literacy was truly hard won.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Baca on a recent US flight. I read his book and was very touched with his honesty and story telling ability. Such a difficult beginning for him and yet he has persevered, managed to beat the odds and is a delight to visit with. I feel very honored to have been able to spend time with him and to learn more about his life's journey.
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Format: Hardcover
A Place To Stand, by award winning poet and seasoned playwright Jimmy Santiago Baca, is the memoir of a difficult and sometimes violent life. Sent to an orphanage at a young age, encountering violence and bigotry at each turn, he became a criminal and a drug dealer. Sentenced to prison, he had to go to extreme lengths to stay alive - even slicing an attacker's stomach with a butcher knife. Though self-defense, his violent acts earned him repeated time in solitary confinement. There, struggling to resist the dehumanization of prison life, he encountered memories and revelations that transformed him and inspired him to express himself through poetry. Yet even when the end of his prison sentence and freedom beckoned, more tragedy awaited him and his family. A harrowing true story, of unbearable loss and suffering, with a final revelation offering a tiny flicker of hope. A Place To Stand is riveting, compelling, impossible to put down and highly recommended.
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By J.Rivera on August 17, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A true story of struggle, hardship, and survival. This book is a must read for anyone to understand what it is like to be Chicano, poor, and oppressed. Poverty affects everyone but when you are a minority, the battle is more intense. We have many Black people survive oppression and slavery but the public is unaware of the struggle of the Chicano people and how their land was taken away from them. "A Place to Stand," is just one story of just one Chicano that experienced life in prison and the very sad ending of losing his family forever. Jimmy Santiago Baca describes his life living in an orphanage and how ending up in prison affected his life. This book is a must read for anyone who is interested in biographies.
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Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book. I dont read much but this book caught my attention fast. I can relate to this book alot because I grew up in some of the same sercomstances and had similar problems in life like Jimmy Santiago Baca did. And its good to know that no matter where u came from, what color or what youve been through u can pull out of the gutters and change your life like Jimmy did. It makes me proud to be Latino. I give this book 10 stars out of 5!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The story is the standard arc for prison crime redemption stories: a troubled and abusive childhood of abandonment; crime as a source of economic escape; arrest and the punishment juggernaut; prison as violence and tests of manhood; insight through education and writing; a transformed man and post prison. Mr. Baca writes well and while the story is "old", he brings some fresh language and some cultural perspective to his redemption.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In A Place to Stand Jimmy Santiago Baca chronicles a life begun with an acute awareness of lack, plummeting into a world of punishment for a life he didn't know better than to lead. I'm both heartbroken and uplifted by Baca's story. I found myself wanting at some times to comfort him and tell him that there is more to life than he realizes, while other times I wanted to smack him for making what he knew in his heart to be clearly wrong decisions.

In his early days gallivanting with Marcos and falling in love with Lonnie I had a sense that Baca could pull his life together and that he would find a clean escape from the world of drugs and dealing he had been drawn into. I believe he lost the battle in the moment he sat in the car with the nine millimeter and a marijuana stalk between him and the enemy. All of a sudden his life was changed for good and he was drawn into a violent world with no escape.

While in prison Baca undergoes many transformations. He finds himself at different times a violent criminal, a lost and desperate man in the insane ward, and a dedicated student. It is within this time that I am overcome with sadness for his predicament. In many ways I see why he is in prison and agree that he made many terrible mistakes along the way, yet here is a man with a clear longing to make things right. It is in his search for education that I see true hope.

Baca finds his way within the pages of letters and finds his voice in learning to read and write. All of a sudden he has an outlet for his anger, frustration, humiliation, and sadness. This part of Baca's story uplifts me and brings me great joy. I identify with the need to write out my emotion and am thankful that Baca found the strength to learn what he needed to be successful.
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