Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison

Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison

by T. J. Parsell
4.7 29


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Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison by T. J. Parsell

When seventeen-year-old T. J. Parsell held up the local Photo Mat with a toy gun, he was sentenced to four and a half to fifteen years in prison. The first night of his term, four older inmates drugged Parsell and took turns raping him. When they were through, they flipped a coin to decide who would "own" him. Forced to remain silent about his rape by a convict code among inmates (one in which informers are murdered), Parsell's experience that first night haunted him throughout the rest of his sentence. In an effort to silence the guilt and pain of its victims, the issue of prisoner rape is a story that has not been told. For the first time Parsell, one of America's leading spokespeople for prison reform, shares the story of his coming of age behind bars. He gives voice to countless others who have been exposed to an incarceration system that turns a blind eye to the abuse of the prisoners in its charge. Since life behind bars is so often exploited by television and movie re-enactments, the real story has yet to be told. Fish is the first breakout story to do that.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786720378
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Publication date: 09/01/2007
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 324,559
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

T.J. Parsell is a writer and human rights activist dedicated to ending sexual abuse against men, women, and children in all forms of detention. He is currently President-elect of Stop Prisoner Rape and serves as a consultant to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. Parsell has testified before numerous government bodies and was instrumental in passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, the first ever federal legislation to address this issue. He lives in Sag Harbor, NY. Visit his web site at

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Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
gerryburnie More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not put it down! Both funny and terrifying....Highly recommended
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
carole1 More than 1 year ago
Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's PrisonMuch is said about Prison Rape in 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.
sassypickle More than 1 year ago
Honest and detailed, I loved that! Disturbing, as was to be expected from a book about prison experience. Memorable...for sure.
Nib6 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MichaelTravisJasper More than 1 year ago
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"
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GregRW More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was so interesting I read the entire book in 3 days, could not put it down, the writer did a great job writing about his experience in the prison system.
JennGrrl More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
One of the best prison narratives I've ever read. Scary. I'd feel truely betrayed if this turned out to be a not-so-non non-fiction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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 Harp
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tim Parsell was a skinny, 17 year old inexperienced gay boy from a dysfunctional family, when he ended up going to prison for an attempted robbery of a PhotoMat with a toy gun. After a gang rape by several older inmates, he became the 'property' of an inmate nicknamed SlideStep, who protected him from further attacks in return for his complete obedience and sexual servitude. But Tim is separated from SideStep when he is called to court, is sexually propositioned by a probation officer who will make a report to the court, and sees his original plea bargain deal disappear when the rebuffed officer gives him a negative report. Now in a different facility, facing up to four years in prison, Tim takes the advice of another 'boy' and hooks up with another older inmate for protection in exchange for favors. An intelligently-written, emotional blockbuster of a memoir, painting an honest and riveting portrait of what is right and wrong with our prison system. From the prison employees who are as much a victim of the 'system' as the inmates, to racial strife that is encouraged by poor management decisions, to those rare administrators who try to bend the rules to do what they know is right, this is an incredible look at a world most of us will never see, but of which we have the duty to know. The sexually explicit content is meant to educate rather than titillate, and show the special physical and emotional hell this can be for a young man trying to reconcile his sexual orientation. The author, who has gone on to a successful career in computer software and is now one of the most outspoken advocates for prison reform in the country, also provides closure with two sections at the end that update what he knows of the characters mentioned. It's a powerful, gut-wrenching journey, much recommended to all.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Read the book in two days, could not put it down.