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A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison Paperback – May 4, 2010
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“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.”—The Baltimore Times
“Betts did not use his almost-a-decade experience behind bars as an excuse to become bitter and angry about his life. He instead used it to strengthen his mind and develop his love for books, literature and poetry. [He] writes candidly about his experiences as a juvenile offender in an adult system.”—Afro-American Times
"Dwayne Betts was incarcerated for 10 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, author of Letters to a Young Brother
"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, author of Do You: 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success
"This book is a lesson on living. How does one become a man after being in a cell? A Question of Freedom is not a book of answers. Instead, this memoir is a minder that a black boy can turn his world around. Betts shows us that words are key. This book will unlock your compassion."
-E. Ethelbert Miller, Director of the African American Resource Center, Howard University
"At last, a clear defining voice to express the feelings and hardships of so many young black boys trapped in America's prisons. A survivor among the countless lost souls, Dwayne loudly demands to be heard--in a soft and honest tone. A magnificent journey!"
-Louise Ferrante, author of Unlocked: The Life and Crimes of a Mafia Insider
About the Author
The day he was released Dwayne walked into the world committed to proving his life wouldn’t be reduced to the thirty seconds he held a gun in his hand. Since that day, Dwayne has had his poetry published in many national literary journals and contributed an essay to Marita Golden’s anthology It’s All Love. He has been awarded the Holden Fellowship from MFA program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. A Cave Canem fellow, his poetry has appeared in Ploughshares, Crab Orchard Review and Poet Lore among others. He is a Breadloaf Writer’s Conference scholarship recipient and a graduate of Prince George’s Community College in Largo, MD and the University of Maryland in College Park, MD. He was recently given the honor of addressing his fellow graduates. In May, 2010, his book of poems, Shahid Reads His Own Palm will be published by Alice James Books.
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The only time I took issue with the text is, somewhat early one, Betts really stands beside himself and is reluctant to take responsibility for his actions of robbing someone at gunpoint and fleeing from police. He complains that the prosecuting attorney makes him out to be a bad guy, and the judge is particularly harsh in his sentencing. The reality is, however, there is no mention of his underaged possession of a firearm. If the judge and prosecuting attorney were really as viscous as they were made out to be, that charge wouldn't be completely ignored during the trial. Notwithstanding, Betts did randomly find a guy sleeping in his car and rob him at gunpoint for the sole reason that he was white, so playing the victim about how he was misrepresented at trial falls on deaf ears (at least, for me).
Other than that, Betts has a lot of very responsible things to say about race, the prison system, and truth in sentencing. I would recommend this book to anyone who believes in truth-in sentencing, because I think the author does a good job of proving it did him a profound disservice.
Today, Dwayne Betts has become a role model for young black boys and a much sought after speaker and talk show guest. He is working for the repeal of the laws that allowed him to be certified as an adult. The question is before the U.S. Supreme Court and should be decided this spring. He is married, he and his wife Teresa have a two-year old son. His first book of poetry Shahid [his prison name] Reads His Own Palm is to be published in May. Just so you know, my wife and I had the good luck to make Dwayne and Teresa's acquaintance recently during an airport stopover in Baltimore.
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