Sentence: Ten Years and a Thousand Books in Prison

Penguin Random House Audio. Feb. 2022. 13:36 hrs. ISBN 9780593289785. $22.50. MEMOIR
Journalist and translator Genis’s debut memoir chronicles the ten years that he spent in the New York State prison system after committing a series of knifepoint street robberies. A white, college-educated Jewish man, the son of Russian intellectuals, Genis was new to the justice system when he was handed a hefty 12-year sentence. During his time in prison, he read and studied 1,046 books—this “made the difference between merely surviving ten years of incarceration and finding meaning in it.” Each chapter of Genis’s memoir focuses on a different topic related to prison life—solitary confinement, prison gangs, the smuggling of drugs and weapons, conjugal visits, and the many creative ways to cook, share, and trade food. Genis’s stories, which he narrates himself, are fascinating, shocking, and deeply thought-provoking. Listeners will laugh with him during his most outrageous stories and will be moved by the compassion and frustration in his voice as he raises pointed questions about the inequities in the justice system and the absurdity of current methods of rehabilitation.
VERDICT This sometimes raunchy but always insightful memoir will have wide appeal. Recommend for those who will appreciate Genis’s darkly humorous take on this timely topic.
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