Book Review

Writing My Wrongs, by Shaka Senghor

Submitted by Caroline Cuoco, Summer Intern

Shaka Senghor offers a deeply inspiring memoir that illuminates the connection between poverty, neglect, trauma, race, and the prison industrial index. He bounces back and forth through time, from his life on the streets as a 14-year-old drug dealer to the nineteen years he experienced on the inside of an American prison. With his fearless self-reflection and confessions, the readers join Senghor on his pathway to transformation and redemption. Throughout the book, Senghor highlights the circumstances that led him to make bad decisions.

As a child, Senghor dreamed of becoming a doctor. He was on the honor roll in school and seemed to be living a life full of love and promise. But at the age of 11, his parents began a series of splitting up and reconciling until finally their relationship ended for good. Eventually, his mother kicked Senghor out because she believed that he would be better off living with his father. He felt rejected, hurt, and confused. During his days with his mother, he defied her authority in every way possible. She punished him with harsh beatings and deprived him of the motherly love and support a young boy needs. So, he decided to leave and turned to the streets for survival. He became a drug dealer, entering the world of drugs and violence during the beginning of the 1980’s crack epidemic. As a homeless 14-year-old, he didn’t consider the possible consequences of drug dealing until his boss handed him a loaded shotgun. At that point, Senghor felt like he had no other choice. He found himself addicted to the lifestyle he fell into and by age nineteen, he was convicted of murder.

Senghor walks the reader through his darkest times during his incarceratioWhile illustrating the dehumanizing and isolating aspects of prison, he shows how the unforgiving system sets you up to fail. He witnessed violence of all levels, fell victim to the officers’ abuse of power, spent four and a half years in solitary confinement, and constantly moved from prison to prison. After all his hardships, he found the strength to forgive himself and walked out of prison determined to have a positive influence.

Writing my Wrongs is a reminder of the humanity and vulnerability that lies within each of us. With its triumphant spirit, this book perfectly explains why everyone is capable of redemption.

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