Larceny in My Blood: A Memoir of Heroin, Handcuffs, and Higher Education

Larceny in My Blood: A Memoir of Heroin, Handcuffs, and Higher Education

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by Matthew Parker
     
 

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A fully illustrated graphic memoir of a child of the '60s who was raised into a life of crime and addiction —but graduated into freedom.

Matthew Parker was in his mid-forties when he started college. He’d been sidetracked: Eleven years were eaten up by serving time in various county jails, state penitentiaries, and federal prison. He&rsquo

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Overview

A fully illustrated graphic memoir of a child of the '60s who was raised into a life of crime and addiction —but graduated into freedom.

Matthew Parker was in his mid-forties when he started college. He’d been sidetracked: Eleven years were eaten up by serving time in various county jails, state penitentiaries, and federal prison. He’d been arrested more than thirty times, racking up eight felonies in a crime career that began at age thirteen, when he started dealing pot. When he got out of prison for the last time and kicked his heroin addiction, he was determined to spend the next chapter of his life in the classroom. And he did just that, going on to complete a master’s degree from Columbia University’s highly competitive creative writing program.

Through captivating black-and-white illustrations drawn in a distinctively primitive style, Larceny in My Blood flashes back on Parker's childhood, with memories of a loving but lawless mother teaching him that breaking the law was the way to survive. From there it moves to an account of Parker’s lost decades, where he resorted to petty crime to support a heroin habit. After years of fighting the system, Parker sees the light and Larceny in My Blood becomes a poignant portrait of a man trying to find his way in the straight and narrow. A unique memoir, Parker’s images and words form a mesmerizing road to redemption.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Fresh off earning an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia, Parker has written a memoir detailing a life of drugs, jail, wrongdoing, and literary redemption. Parker’s narrative picks up after he’s let out of jail and returns to civilian life, and follows his pursuit of a literary career. He also thoroughly discusses the origins of his drug-induced downfall growing up in suburban Connecticut with a series of hurdles: an absent father, a mother well-versed in illicit activity, deadbeat siblings, the lure of drugs, and the ever-present threat of incarceration. At the heart of the story is the constant push and pull between his two pursuits, heroin and literature, and the looming question over which will win out. This wealth of information about Parker’s life never thickens into a compelling memoir. Parker’s presentation feels cold and reads like a laundry list of bad behavior. The illustrations in the book are also disappointing, a hodge-podge of underwhelming computer-drawn images. Parker’s drawings do not make a case for the need for his story to be told in comic form, and although his story has the substance of an incredible life, it is not delivered with style. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
There's an inspirational life story within this graphic memoir of a frequently incarcerated junkie who belatedly earned an MFA from Columbia University's prestigious creative writing program, but the framing and pacing of the narrative fall short of the material's potential.

A lifelong addict and petty criminal, Parker had been arrested more than 30 times before he started college in his mid-40s. He had some artistic ability—shown more here in his portraits of rock stars than his rough-hewn comics—and a lifelong love of reading and writing, despite a dysfunctional family in which he followed his mother down the path toward drugs and crime and most of his siblings ended up in jail or on the streets. His matter-of-fact tone has an honesty and dark humor to it, but the storytelling is so offhanded and chronologically disjointed that readers will sense that Parker is both smarter and a better writer than what he shows here. Particularly compelling are the parallels he draws between the penal system, academe and addiction. There is no typically redemptive arc to the story, as the author keeps circling back to addiction and prison. Even after he went straight and found praise for his writing at Columbia, he admits that his financial problems (exacerbated by his criminal record) left him with little remorse about cheating the system. "I still have larceny in my blood and am not afraid to use it should the need arise," he writes, telling a fellow student, "I came here to write, not to teach or work like a dog in some damn restaurant for minimum wage."

Parker follows a professor's advice to "write it the same way you would tell it"—but his approach to the narrative, hopscotching from here to there and back again, isn't nearly as powerful as the story he has to tell.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781592406623
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
08/07/2012
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.96(w) x 8.82(h) x 0.74(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“An honest look at addiction, recovery, relapse, relapse, and relapse. Parker explores his bloodline of crime and love with an unwavering and unsentimental eye."
—Annie Choi, author of Happy Birthday or Whatever

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