Monday, January 11, 2010

What is R. Dwayne Betts reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: R. Dwayne Betts, author of A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison.

His entry begins:
A while back I listened to Victor LaValle read from his latest novel Big Machine. LaValle's reading left me wondering what happened to his unlikely narrator, Ricky Rice. After the reading, I waited almost a year for the book. There was no disappointment, as Big Machine brought to the page, with rare nuance, the lives of people on the outskirts of society. There was a group of them coming from every place you wouldn't expect the hero of a tale to come from: drug addicts, ladies of the night - men and women who had lived rough lives. They all found themselves amongst the Unlikely Scholars - and that is only where the story begins. Part...[read on]
About A Question of Freedom, from the publisher:
A powerful debut memoir from a published poet and emerging writer.

At the age of sixteen, R. Dwayne Betts-a good student from a lower-middle-class family-carjacked a man with a friend. He had never held a gun before, but within a matter of minutes he had committed six felonies. In Virginia, carjacking is a "certifiable" offense, meaning that Dwayne would be treated as an adult under state law. A bright young kid, weighing only 126 pounds-not enough to fill out a medium T-shirt-he served his eight-year sentence as part of the adult population in some of the worst prisons in the state.

A Question of Freedom is a coming-of-age story, with the unique twist that it takes place in prison. Utterly alone-and with the growing realization that he really is not going home any time soon-Dwayne confronts profound questions about violence, freedom, crime, race, and the justice system. Above all, A Question of Freedom is about a quest for identity-one that guarantees Dwayne's survival in a hostile environment and that incorporates an understanding of how his own past led to the moment of his crime.
R. Dwayne Betts' poetry has been widely published and he is the winner of the 2009 Beatrice Hawley Award. A Question of Freedom was published by Penguin last year.

Visit R. Dwayne Betts's website.

Writers Read: R. Dwayne Betts.

--Marshal Zeringue