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COMING HOME by Brittney Griner


by Brittney Griner with Michelle Burford

Pub Date: May 7th, 2024
ISBN: 9780593801345
Publisher: Knopf

The WNBA star recounts her imprisonment by the Putin regime.

“My horror begins in a land I thought I knew, on a trip I wish I hadn’t taken,” writes Griner. She had traveled to Russia before, playing basketball for the Yekaterinburg franchise of the Russian league during the WNBA’s off-season, but on this winter day in 2022, she was pulled aside at the Moscow airport and subjected to an unexpected search that turned up medically prescribed cannabis oil. As the author notes, at home in Arizona, cannabis is legal, but not in Russia. After initial interrogation—“They seemed determined to get me to admit I was a smuggler, some undercover drug lord supplying half the country”—she was bundled off to await a show trial that was months in coming. With great self-awareness, the author chronicles the differences between being Black and gay in America and in Russia. “When you’re in a system with no true justice,” she writes, “you’re also in a system with a bunch of gray areas.” Unfortunately, despite a skilled Russian lawyer on her side, Griner had trouble getting to those gray areas, precisely because, with rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, Putin’s people seemed intent on making an example of her. Between spells in labor camps, jails, and psych wards, the author became a careful observer of the Russian penal system and its horrors. Navigating that system proved exhausting; since her release following an exchange for an imprisoned Russian arms dealer (about which the author offers a le Carré–worthy account of the encounter in Abu Dhabi), she has been suffering from PTSD. That struggle has invigorated her, though, in her determination to free other unjustly imprisoned Americans, a plea for which closes the book.

A compelling, often chilling look inside today’s version of the Gulag.