Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison Kindle Edition
by Shaka Senghor  (Convergent Books, January 2017) 978-1101907313

I received this book in exchange for an honest review and that’s all that I can give. Shaka weaves a tale that moves in and out of time and back and forth between the beginnings of his childhood and the beginnings of his incarceration for murder. There’s a review clip on the front that says that the reader should be prepared to have their preconceptions shattered. I don’t know about that. Maybe if you’ve never encountered an ex dope boy who found religion in the penitentiary, then his story might be new, but I didn’t really see that here. There were a lot of missing elements.

Shaka runs away at 14 and blames the escape on the abuse and abandonment of his mother, but we never get any real details of what that entailed, which is a BIG piece of the picture. He claims that her sending him to live with his father was abandonment. If that’s all there was then I’m skeptical. I work with kids whose parents leave them home without telling them for days or weeks, or drop them off at a friends and disappear forever. We have tales of more than one child who had to be taken in by an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend because the Mom or Dad just vanished. If you say that followed a path of personal destruction and racially based pharmaceutical genocide I need a solid foundation for that journey into darkness. His redemption is based on that.

I won’t say the book is good or bad. I’ll only speak in terms of effective and ineffective.

Will I pass this on to a kid at risk of being swallowed by the streets? Yes

Do I think it will be transformative? Maybe, not.
I say this because Shaka has a gift for writing. It’s an outlet for him. It also gives him a bit of an ego boost because of the recognition attached, but what about the kids who don’t have an exceptional talent? I’m talking about the kids who are poor and the only thing that makes them feel like they are worthy is a $400 weave or a pair of vintage Jordans. If I talk to those kids about staying in school and getting an hourly wage job after graduation that look at me as if I’m speaking a foreign language. I don’t have the language to speak to them and my ears aren’t understanding where they are and why they do what they do. I want to help them and I thought that this book might help me do that and it just didn’t.

Is the book worthy? Hell, yes.
It’s a better than average memoir. I was just looking for something it could not give, and the voices of black men, especially those who have been on the wrong side of the law have been silenced too long.

Check it out.

This books is perfect for:

  • Those wanting to immerse themselves in an American prison without getting arrested
  • Those who like street lit, but need something a bit more real
  • Those who love watching Law & Order, The Wire and other crime dramas


  1. Stephanie

    Great review. I recently added this book to my TBR list as a resource for at-risk youth. Thank you for letting me know that the book doesn’t have the punch I’m looking for.

    • shannamiles

      I don’t think it’s a bad book. It’s just that from his account I felt that he was reformed by his time spent in prison, but there isn’t much information that explores how he could have transformed without being locked away for so long.

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