Better, Not Bitter: Living on Purpose in the Pursuit of Racial Justice

Grand Central. May 2021. 304p. ISBN 9781538705001. $28. BIOG
Salaam, one of the Exonerated Five, writes a powerful debut memoir that recalls his childhood, his 1989 arrest and imprisonment as one of the Central Park Five, and his struggle to make a life after he was finally freed from prison and exonerated of a crime he did not commit. In straightforward prose, Salaam writes that he was still a child when he was arrested at age 15, as well as when he was released from prison at age 23. With frankness, he explains how innocent his view of life was, and describes coming home from school one day, as a New York City high school student, and being told by brother and sister that police were looking for him. So began his entry into the judicial system without a way to defend himself, especially as a juvenile. Throughout his memoir, Salaam offers insight on surviving incarceration and fighting against oppression, and testifies to the power of believing in oneself, of strong family bonds, and of spiritual healing. Ultimately, this is a story of Salaam’s survival and channeling pain into power and energy.
VERDICT An important memoir and call to action that sheds light on the personal injustices of mass incarceration.
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