Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What is Matthew Parker reading?

The current featured contributor at Writers Read: Matthew Parker, author of Larceny in My Blood: A Memoir of Heroin, Handcuffs, and Higher Education.

His entry begins:
I just finished reading Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The book asks hard questions, like why has our incarceration rate quadrupled over the last 30 years? And why is the vast majority of our exploded prison population made up mostly of minorities? The answers to these questions is the main thesis of the book: that the prison industrial complex is just a redo of the Jim Crow laws that kept African Americans oppressed for the better part of a century following the Civil War. She further contends that the current War on Drugs is just an extension of the Southern Strategy, a well-known conservative tactic that sought to drive a wedge between poor whites and poor blacks and other minorities—to in fact portray the latter as a threat (existential or otherwise) to the former in an effort to win the votes of the former.

I’ve seen mini versions of the southern strategy played out in numerous jails and prisons. Being a white male, I was constantly subject to the politics of Aryan prison gangs no matter how hard I tried to avoid both the gangs and the hate-laced rhetoric they espouse. Their main talking point is that the threat posed by the other races (especially Jews and blacks) to white America can only end one way; in a new civil war based on race. These scare tactics work surprisingly well in recruiting new gang members, particularly on fresh, young inmates. What’s pertinent is that...[read on]
About the book, from the publisher:
A fully illustrated graphic memoir of a child of the '60s who was raised into a life of crime and addiction —but graduated into freedom.

Matthew Parker was in his mid-forties when he started college. He’d been sidetracked: Eleven years were eaten up by serving time in various county jails, state penitentiaries, and federal prison. He’d been arrested more than thirty times, racking up eight felonies in a crime career that began at age thirteen, when he started dealing pot. When he got out of prison for the last time and kicked his heroin addiction, he was determined to spend the next chapter of his life in the classroom. And he did just that, going on to complete a master’s degree from Columbia University’s highly competitive creative writing program.

Through captivating black-and-white illustrations drawn in a distinctively primitive style, Larceny in My Blood flashes back on Parker's childhood, with memories of a loving but lawless mother teaching him that breaking the law was the way to survive. From there it moves to an account of Parker’s lost decades, where he resorted to petty crime to support a heroin habit. After years of fighting the system, Parker sees the light and Larceny in My Blood becomes a poignant portrait of a man trying to find his way in the straight and narrow. A unique memoir, Parker’s images and words form a mesmerizing road to redemption.
Learn more about Larceny in My Blood at the publisher's website, and visit the Larceny in My Blood Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: Larceny in My Blood.

My Book, The Movie: Larceny in My Blood.

Writers Read: Matthew Parker.

--Marshal Zeringue