Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women

Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women


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Winner of the 2018 National Council on Crime & Delinquency’s Media for a Just Society Awards

Winner of the 49th NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work (Biography/Autobiography)

Winner of the 2017 Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice

“Valuable . . . [like Michelle] Alexander’s The New Jim Crow.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“Susan Burton is a national treasure . . . her life story is testimony to the human capacity for resilience and recovery . . . [Becoming Ms. Burton is] a stunning memoir.”
—Nicholas Kristof, in The New York Times

One woman’s remarkable odyssey from tragedy to prison to recovery—and recognition as a leading figure in the national justice reform movement

Susan Burton’s world changed in an instant when her five-year-old son was killed by a van driving down their street. Consumed by grief and without access to professional help, Susan self-medicated, becoming addicted first to cocaine, then crack. As a resident of South Los Angeles, a black community under siege in the War on Drugs, it was but a matter of time before Susan was arrested. She cycled in and out of prison for over fifteen years; never was she offered therapy or treatment for addiction. On her own, she eventually found a private drug rehabilitation facility.

Once clean, Susan dedicated her life to supporting women facing similar struggles. Her organization, A New Way of Life, operates five safe homes in Los Angeles that supply a lifeline to hundreds of formerly incarcerated women and their children—setting them on the track to education and employment rather than returns to prison. Becoming Ms. Burton not only humanizes the deleterious impact of mass incarceration, it also points the way to the kind of structural and policy changes that will offer formerly incarcerated people the possibility of a life of meaning and dignity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620974353
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication date: 02/12/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 149,509
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Susan Burton is the founder and executive director of A New Way of Life, a nonprofit that provides sober housing and other support to formerly incarcerated women. Nationally known as an advocate for restoring basic civil and human rights to those who have served time, Burton was a winner of AARP’s prestigious Purpose Prize and has been a Starbucks “Upstander,” a CNN Top 10 Hero, and a Soros Justice Fellow. She lives in Los Angeles. Cari Lynn is a journalist and the author of five books of nonfiction, including Leg the Spread and The Whistleblower (with Kathryn Bolkovac). Lynn has written for O, The Oprah Magazine ; Health ; the Chicago Tribune ; and Deadline Hollywood. She lives in Los Angeles. Michelle Alexander is the author of the bestselling The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (The New Press). She lives in Ohio.

Table of Contents

Foreword Michelle Alexander xi

Prologue xix

Part I Sue

1 Now What? 3

2 Land of Opportunity 8

3 Daddy's Girl 14

4 Hit the Road 19

5 The Sacrifice 26

6 Things You Don't Talk About 34

7 The Life 46

8 From the Skillet to the Frying Pan 54

9 No Justice, No Peace 62

10 A New Drug 69

11 Incarceration Nation 75

12 Collateral Damage 85

13 The Revolving Door 94

14 The Vicious Cycle 99

15 Hurt People 107

16 A Tale of Two Systems 115

17 A Way Out 127

18 Finding Purpose 134

Part II MS. Burton

19 A New Way of Life 143

20 The Wall of No 153

21 Who's Profiting from Our Pain? 159

22 Women and Prison 170

23 A Kindred Spirit 177

24 Taking Food off the Table 181

25 Broke Leg House 185

26 From Trash to Treasure 193

27 All of Us or None 200

28 Treating the Symptoms and the Disease 206

29 The Meaning of Life 216

30 The Women from Orange County 222

31 Being Beholden 226

32 Living an Impossible Life 233

33 The House That Discrimination Built 241

34 Women Organizing for Justice and Opportunity 245

35 What Would Ms. Sybil Brand Think? 255

36 Without Representation 260

37 Prop 47 264

38 The Movement 273

39 The Arc Bends Toward Justice 276

Acknowledgments 283

Further Reading 287

Suggested Resources 289

Notes 291

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Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
deborah2016 More than 1 year ago
This book is incredibly well written. Very moving. And it's also keeping me up. I want to DO something towards the cause, but not sure what. Reading how much Ms. Burton has accomplished in the last 20 years or so is incredible. I want to have that kind of passion and energy. I have about 30 pages left in the book and I can barely keep track on how many initiatives and projects she's been a part of (this is because she's is so incredibly active in multiple arenas. Not due to poor writing. the writing is excellent) I also really appreciate reading how various political leaders interweave in her story. I'm already a fan of my House Representative, Maxine Waters - finding her within the pages of this book, makes me like/appreciate her even more. Many other political leaders make an appearance. It is also really surprising to discover the many ways that political leaders failed, at least, leaders that I thought should have done better. While we all know that politicians strategize everything, because it's all about appearances, it's really bizarre to read how those "superficial strategies/messages/values" play out in people's lives. That Democrats such as Gray Davis and Bill Clinton made political decisions that may have been good for appearances, but certainly didn't do the Black community any favors. Makes me even more wary of my already shaky Democratic connection (we need a viable 3rd party!) This book is personal, political, motivating, and so many more things rolled into one well written package. There is so much more that I want to say, but I am still processing this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read. If you are not involved this book will wake you up.
AvidReader2708 More than 1 year ago
Wow, what a great read! This book is...... Inspirational and insightful Extremely well written Powerful story of a relevant topic You must add this to your list of reads. Was delighted to hear this being discussed on Fresh Air today too!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a gripping narrative and so well written, I couldn't put it down! A remarkable story of a woman overcoming so many obstacles to finally achieve success and then go on to help others as only someone who has been there can do. A MUST READ for anyone who cares about promoting social justice, giving second chances and learning the story behind a trailblazing woman!