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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
It is said that the boy is father to the man, but in the case of Jimmy Santiago Baca, a childhood marked by abandonment, violence, and drugs remarkably produced one of our generation's most acclaimed poets. Now, the New Mexico native makes his first foray into the realm of narrative nonfiction in this graphic and affecting memoir that recalls a life of constant tragedy. He begins with a sad trip, at the age of five, to visit his alcoholic father in jail. Shortly thereafter, his mother abandons her children, and Jimmy is relegated first to an orphanage, then to a detention center. And as Baca enters adulthood, he finds himself reverting again and again to drug dealing and a life on the run -- the only life he has ever known.
Landing in a maximum-security prison in Arizona, Baca both witnesses and engages in horrific acts of violence. But at the same time, he miraculously discovers a deep attachment to poetry that becomes his saving grace. Repeatedly locked away in isolation, Baca slowly begins to make a kind of poetic sense of his own life and, by the time of his prison release, he is studying the works of Anne Sexton, Ezra Pound, Pablo Neruda, and William Carlos Williams, as well as writing his own increasingly mature and powerful verses. Ultimately, Baca is able to look back on his life and family with forgiveness. His increasing awareness that his life isn't the one he would have chosen, but is the one that made him who he is, is a moving lesson for us all. (Summer 2001 Selection)