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Posted October 8, 2006
TJ Parsells is a vivid, strong writer who holds nothing back in his tale of prison life. He brings a wide cast of characters to life and tells a harrowing story with humor and insight. I laughed a lot and cried, too. You won't be able to put it down.
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Posted October 18, 2006
In Martin Scorcese¿s latest film, ¿The Departed,¿ a police department psychiatrist questions a young cop/ex-con about his experiences in prison. He asks her, sarcastically, ¿You want to hear about the showers?¿ Looking shocked-shocked, she says, ¿Did something happen to you?¿ To which he replies, ¿No.¿ And the movie audience (in East Hampton, New York) ¿ snickered. That ¿joke¿ is the issue that TJ Parsell so heartrendingly skewers in ¿Fish,¿ his just-published memoir of what outrages happen to a boy sent to a men¿s prison. Parcell¿s strong, clear, sometimes beautiful writing keeps ¿Fish¿ from becoming either lurid or polemical. Anyone who reads this splendid expose¿ will never again snicker at soap-in-the-shower jail jokes. Rape is rape, and it is always wrong. Edward Hannibal
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Posted January 13, 2014
Non-fiction books seem popular among the viewers, and so this week I have chosen one that is somewhat different. Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison by T.J. Parsell [Da Capo Press, November 2, 2006], is described as a memoir, but for the most part it reads like a coming out story.
It is not a pleasant recollection at times, although here, once again, there is a dichotomy. While prison life is brutal, the rape scenes especially, at times there seems to be a measure of relish involved.
The memoir part describes how the author as a 17 y.o entered the prison system, and what he encountered on the first night and onward. Raped by five men, and then ‘won’ in a lottery by one of them, it is a brutally frank story that pulls no punches. Indeed, the raw sexual activity, graphically described, dominates the first two-thirds of the book. [See my discussion on this point, below.]
The coming out part involves the discovery of his own sexuality, and the evolution of a romantic side to all the sex. It also leads, ultimately, to a happy ending.
Critically speaking, the overall story is both intriguing and revealing; however, the sexual activity in the first part is somewhat overwhelming—almost to the point of being super-saturating. Of course, one can argue that this is the way it happened, and you can’t second guess fact; nevertheless, a little less graphic description might have alleviated the super-saturation.
Which brings us around to editing. Oh, my! One reviewer speculated that an unedited version might have somehow made it to the printer, and if this is the case it would explain the inordinate number of typos, malapropisms, and otherwise obvious faux pas.
Taking all this into consideration, I still think it is a fascinating read. Three and one-half bees.
Posted December 31, 2013
Posted April 21, 2013
Fish : a memoir of a boy in a man's prison, By : T.J. Parsell is a realistic depiction of life behind bars for young inmates. This cold, brutal story takes place in the Michigan Riverside Correctional Facility with T.J. Parsell, a 17 year old teen who decided to hold up a Photo Mat with a toy gun. This "practical joke' ended up getting him 4 years in prison with adults. The relation ship between T.J. and Chet gives a real world example of what it's like in prison. I would absolutely recommend this book. It goes into explicit detail with life inside of prison, and serves as a fair warning to all teenagers.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 8, 2012
Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's PrisonMuch is said about Prison Rape in Fish...it should be a wake up call to juvenile delinquents and criminals, period. Throughout the inmate chronicles of "From Bondage to Freedom" by Carolyn Engledow and Mitchell Hendrix, we read several scenarios of inmate rape and prostitution. Many former inmates have written books about there abusive encounters in the prison system but few of those books encourage young people to avoid criminal lifestyles. Few of those books are unlike "From Bondage to Freedom" which details the stages of criminality, the behavioral patterns of criminals, and compels young people to break their crime cycles to avoid the consequences of criminality and prison rape.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 17, 2012
Posted July 14, 2011
As I began to work with returning citizens I am searching for help to understand where they came from!!! WOW! This book opened my eyes in ways I never thought could happen.
All Teenage boys need to read this, all boys in the court system for any reason needs to read this book! This is a book how unjust justice is. Two wrongs do not make a right.
Posted October 1, 2010
I Also Recommend:
This memoir tells the haunting story of how a boy makes a tragic mistake that lands him in prison. Of course this leads to a life of frequent rape and psychological torture. This true tale will scare the crap out of you. It also shows how badly our justice system is often ran. This issue deserves great scrutiny by those in power. Darkly fascinating. This author is very brave.
Michael Travis Jasper, author of the novel "To Be Chosen"
I could not put this book down! T. J. Parsell wrote a book that all young men need to read about out prison! If this book do not open up your mind before you broke the law you really need help! My heart went out for the young man who had to take all of the violence from the inmates. Not to mention all the rapes! The Author laid it out for you and will open up many young men eyes! Great job with this book about our prisons!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 9, 2009
Posted April 18, 2009
I Also Recommend:
This book is a very candid look at life inside a prison during the late 1970's into the 1980's. The author went to prison for something he did at 17 years old when he was already on probation...he held up a Fotomat with a plastic toy gun.
He describes being raped on several occasions, including "gang" raped, and he also goes into how "weaker" prisoners, or "boys," have to choose "men" in order to feel protected and to be protected.
The title of the book, Fish, refers to what new prisoners are called. When a prisoner arrives, there's a sort of evaluation that goes on. It's immediately decided if the prisoner is going to be a "man" or a "boy." He's tested by the other prisoners to find this out, which doesn't always end nicely, that's for sure. The author's first rape was a part of this test.
It was definitely an eye-opening book, and one that would most likely deter about anyone from wanting to go to prison. It does NOT sound like a very nice place, and makes me really wonder how some people can spend their entire lives in there dealing with the drama and the limited resources for advancement.
One note about this book. This book very graphically describes rape, specifically homosexual rape, as well as homosexual activities. Normally, I wouldn't care about this, except it is quite graphic and violent during the rape sections. So, my point is, be prepared for some tough to handle stuff.
Posted October 19, 2008
I've had a recent fascination with books about prison life because my daughter was the victim of a stalker. After reading this book, I still haven't found anything that will satisfy my morbid curiosity of what it's like to live in prison, but instead, I found an excellent story. After reading the first couple of chapters, I didn't think I'd be able to finish reading because the situation that the author was describing was just too awful to comprehend. I kept going, and am really glad I did. It's amazing to be able to say that a book that revolves mostly around prison rape and sex was truly touching. You found yourself rooting for the author and hoping that he'd be OK. I commend the author's courage in speaking up and telling his story as well as the effort that he's made to prevent the same from happening to someone else.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 9, 2008
Fish tells the often disturbing story of a guy who was sent to prison at the age of 17. The book is insightful, engaging and well-written. I highly recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 14, 2008
Posted April 26, 2007
I read this book in 3 days and it compares nothing to other documentries or books that I've read about prison life. This book really touched my heart and opened my eyes, I highly recommend it.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 25, 2007
T.J. Parsell had many things going against him - after a life that would have been the destruction of most other youths suffering an abusive home life and going to prison for 'armed robbery' which in fact was a Photo Mat trick holdup with a toy gun - and he ends up a winner. This book, his first outing as a professional writer, is a tightly woven tale in the manner of a 'rake's progress' of what life inside our penal system is truly like. Fortunately for us, as readers, Parsell was able to successfully turn his life around after his incarceration and become an advocate for human rights, while concurrently presenting to the public the evidence that he has a natural gift for storytelling. This is not the typical 'confessions of a bad boy who survived': this is a finely written novel that explores characterization, atmosphere, and the trials of existing in the 'other world' inside prison bars. Parsell tells of his abuse and gang rape upon entry into prison, how he survived due to the kindness of 'his man' and finally came to accept his sexuality, finding friends and comrades along the way that served to redeem his rather bleak outlook on life by giving him the needed affection missing from birth. Nothing is 'prettified' nor is anything painted in a wholly negative fashion: life inside prison is different than it is on the outside - or is it? Is prison just a microcosm of why we as members of society cling to prejudices and have such a dearth of self esteem that we cannot see the larger global picture? Parsell presents his personal history in a manner that allows the reader to empathize, maintain critical distance, and still cheer for the underdog. He also writes a very beautiful love story and offers supportive evidence that personal sexual proclivity is a valid part of every individual's being. FISH is a fascinating, page-turning read, and despite some editorial flaws such as typos and grammar corrections, this is a very fine book - far better than anyone would expect. Recommended Reading. Grady HarpWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 5, 2007
This coming of age in prison memoir is riveting. The experiences are about prison situations. However, this book is really about the dynamics of everyday living and the abuse of power. We all can relate to what is written in this saga. How a human being could prevail having experiences what the author did in his prison life, as well as his pre prison life, will inspire every thinking person. If it is noble to rise above the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, then T. J. Parsell is noble indeed.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 31, 2006
¿Fish¿ is the memoirs of an effeminate, naive, and confused gay man with little self-respect. He belittles his crime, by including that his robbery weapon was a toy gun. Oblivious to prison life, he is suckered into accepting a drugged drink, after which a group of guys sodomize him. At this point, a coin is tossed, and the loser gets him as property. Credibility lessens from here ¿boys¿ in the chaingang are valuable. If they have any decent looks or are good at their chores, they are fought over like any other property of value. The convict code all but faded from prisons back in the late 70¿s and never applied to boys. Big bad guys in prison will sometimes tell on another con to take over his territory. They may get killed for this or over money matters, but the lesser things will result in a fight, not a death. Snitches will sometimes be beaten or killed for the same reasons. But, no one cares if a boy tells about being raped. The guards will rarely investigate unless the boy comes from a wealthy family. Some known gays in prison never get raped, they are the ¿killer fags¿ and usually instigate a large portion of the rapes that do occur in prison. There is a common saying in prison,¿you can¿t rape the willing¿ TJ seems like a victim looking for a rapist, he falls in love etc, etc. He has a very distorted view of how prison life works, outside of personal sexual experiences. Fish should be compared with ¿a million little pieces¿, not with true prison memoirs.
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Posted October 19, 2006
When seventeen year old Tim is advised by the prison's admitting psychologist to get a man for protecion it is a harbinger of what a good looking young man can expect in the way of sexual harassment when incarcerated with hardcore criminals. It is also an indication of the 'systems' complicity in the rampant sex, often not consensual, that goes on in their domain. Parsell's account of his brutal rape and subsequent abuse when imprisioned for holding up a shop with a toy gun is a rivetting read. Thanks to the author's skill in telling his story FISH is a page turner with a message, a rare combination indeed. It is also a story of redemption for the author not only survived the prison system but got to complete his educaion and succeed in the business world. He is now an advocate for the prevention of prison rape and one hopes his book will go a long way in reforming our penal institutions. A must read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.