Jimmy Santiago Baca was 22, and serving a five-year sentence on drug charges at an Arizona maximum-security prison, when he taught himself to read and write. The dictionary was a revelation, a lifesaver. He ”got so overwhelmed by all the word choices that I had to confine myself to describing the dungeon windows embedded with chicken wire.” This raw, vigorous memoir skips his later career as a poet and screenwriter and homes in on his difficult beginnings – the orphanage, the streets, prison violence.
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