This Is Ear Hustle: Unflinching Stories of Everyday Prison Life

Crown. Oct. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9780593238868. $28. SOC SCI
Since its start in 2017, the Peabody- and Pulitzer-nominated podcast Ear Hustle, which offers a firsthand view of prison life from current and formerly incarcerated people, has gained a dedicated following and has made cohosts Poor and Woods stars in their own right. In this first book, the hosts discuss how they met at California’s San Quentin State Prison, launching their podcast from the prison’s media lab, and the innumerable obstacles they faced along the way. In the early chapters, Poor describes teaching photography at San Quentin while Woods recounts the circumstances of his incarceration and the commutation of his sentence in 2018. In following chapters, incarcerated people—notably those who are disabled and/or queer—share their experiences. As in the podcast, Woods is adept at connecting to people navigating reentry after prison; longtime listeners of the podcast will enjoy these heartrending stories from new voices. Damien Linnane’s stunning black-and-white drawings of Ear Hustle’s subjects and their cherished belongings are a highlight.
VERDICT Even readers unfamiliar with the podcast will be absorbed by Poor and Woods’s storytelling and their ability to draw out intimate conversations on hope and humanity.
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