A powerful, devastating, essential read for anyone who believes in true justice for all.



A collection of prose and poetry featuring the voices of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youth and adults.

“I find myself growing up / in a judicial system / and not at home with my parents, / growing every day in prison / makes me feel less than human,” Carlos shares. Alisha writes, “I know how to count because I’m nine now / I’m counting four therapists, two psychiatrists, thirty days, eight needles, and one wish.” They are among the writers in this compilation who tell their heartbreaking stories, envisioning a brighter future for themselves and demanding changes to a broken, unjust criminal legal system. These compelling poems, essays, and interviews are the result of 20 years of outreach to over 1,500 incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youths and adults by the Washington, D.C.–based Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, an organization founded to “fulfill the vision of Glen McGinnis, a young man who discovered his love for reading while on death row in Texas for a crime committed when he was 17 years old.” (McGinnis was later executed.) The graphic depictions of abuse, neglect, solitary confinement, suicidal ideation, and violence are unsettling and vividly convey the writers’ experiences. The perspectives of family members, a former prosecutor, a public defender, and a judge are also included, rounding out readers’ understanding of these issues. Photographs of many contributors enhance the text.

A powerful, devastating, essential read for anyone who believes in true justice for all. (Anthology. 13-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-950807-34-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Shout Mouse Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2021

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Small but mighty necessary reading.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

A miniature manifesto for radical queer acceptance that weaves together the personal and political.

Eli, a cis gay white Jewish man, uses his own identities and experiences to frame and acknowledge his perspective. In the prologue, Eli compares the global Jewish community to the global queer community, noting, “We don’t always get it right, but the importance of showing up for other Jews has been carved into the DNA of what it means to be Jewish. It is my dream that queer people develop the same ideology—what I like to call a Global Queer Conscience.” He details his own isolating experiences as a queer adolescent in an Orthodox Jewish community and reflects on how he and so many others would have benefitted from a robust and supportive queer community. The rest of the book outlines 10 principles based on the belief that an expectation of mutual care and concern across various other dimensions of identity can be integrated into queer community values. Eli’s prose is clear, straightforward, and powerful. While he makes some choices that may be divisive—for example, using the initialism LGBTQIAA+ which includes “ally”—he always makes clear those are his personal choices and that the language is ever evolving.

Small but mighty necessary reading. (resources) (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09368-9

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

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A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

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