Four Years of Freedom by Dean Jacobs

Four Years of Freedom

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A repentant gangbanger recounts how it all went wrong in this rough-hewn but nevertheless riveting in-and-out-of-prison memoir.

Dean (formerly “Lonely”) Jacobs was charged with a murder he says he didn’t commit. But maintaining his innocence isn’t the focus of his heartfelt tell-all; instead, it’s an introspective meditation and cautionary tale about how a privileged kid from a stable family chucked it all away in a nearly inscrutable quest to be “cool.” Tired of being picked on at school, and obsessed with social status, young Jacobs decided that the answer to all his problems was to transform himself into a hard-core “Cholo”—one of the predominantly Mexican-American street-toughs that commanded the gang hierarchy in his Southern California town. According to Jacobs, that fateful decision put him on a crooked path that inexorably led to his incarceration. In this part-confessional, part-jailhouse exposé, the author unflinchingly casts a critical eye on both himself and the California criminal justice system. He may be a hardheaded punk in need of course correction, but the justice system is proven to be a profoundly corrupt institution in need of immediate reform. The title refers to the protracted period of time Jacobs spent out on bail traveling abroad, earnestly taking steps to shake off his gangster mentality while also waiting for his murder trial to finally convene. The tone of that sojourn is both inspiring and disheartening, as the author displays a kind of steely aplomb that forges ahead in spite of the looming danger. His prose may be unpolished (groups are often indicated numerically, as in 2 guys and 3 girls), but Jacobs has an innate sense of drama and never tips his hand regarding his ultimate fate until the very end. He may or may not be innocent, but his incredible journey cannot be ignored.

A rare glimpse inside a shattered life buoyed by the enduring possibility of redemption. 

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 2012
Page count: 198pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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