A Place to Stand: The Making of a Poet
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A Place to Stand: The Making of a Poet

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  775 ratings  ·  97 reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers


It is said that the boy is father to the man, but in the case of Jimmy Santiago Baca, a childhood marked by abandonment, violence, and drugs remarkably produced one of our generation's most acclaimed poets. Now, the New Mexico native makes his first foray into the realm of narrative nonfiction in this graphic and...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published July 27th 2001 by Grove/Atlantic (first published January 1st 2001)
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mark
May 29, 2009 mark rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: realists
This memoir was difficult to read because of the brutal reality of the criminal justice system that it depicts. This is not a "how-to" lesson if you're an aspiring poet. It is a reality lesson on the perverted American justice system, specifically if you are poor, male, black or brown. That Baca became the writer and poet that he is -- is only testimony to him, and his unique brain. Baca describes what prison is like, what solitary confinement is like, and how sensory deprevation transformed him...more
Juan
this book is about jimmy and hes brothere mieyo there were little when hes farther first started drinking and getting drunk.he left hes family once in a while and wnet of drinking.jimmy was little always getting abused by hes dad. one day jimmys mom count take it any more she ran away with a white family and got married to a guy name richard he was rich.jimmys dad went looking after her and jimmy and hes brother got whent and lived with hes gramdma. after a while she got tired of them and then s...more
Tina
Pg. 152-153

"Had I been able to share my feelings that moment, I would have said what I was able to add years later, lying on my cot in an isolation cell in total darkness. I would have said I felt the many lives that had come before me, the wind carrying within the vast space of the range, and all that lived in the range--cows, grass, insects-- but something deeper. Old women leaving their windows open so the breeze can pass through the rooms, blessing the walls, chasing away evil spirits, anoin...more
Courtney
Jan 20, 2011 Courtney rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mature readers - no age limit, just cognitive ability
"After being stripped of everything, all these kids had left was pride - a pride that was distorted, maimed, twisted, and turned against them, a defiant pride that did not allow them to admit that they were human beings and had been hurt." - Baca, p. 21

It has taken me a while to write this review because the information in this memoir is so raw and disturbing that I had to remove myself from it in order to wrap my mind around what I thought. To be honest, I still don't know how to express in wor...more
Alejandro
This book is about a man named jimmy he has had a horrible childhood because when he was a little kid his mom left him and his brother, for a white man. They stayed at there granpa's and granma's for a little while he realy like his granpa alot, but he missed his mom a lot. Every day he would ask for her, his granpa said, shell be back soon,until one day his granpa passt away, Jimmy and his brother had to stay in a orpanage until he was 12 or 13 he had to move to this other place. He started to...more
José-antonio Orosco
Baca has always been one of my favorite poets. His work captures the sights, sounds, and feels of the Chicano neighborhoods of the Albuquerque where I grew up.

His story of a young illiterate man who became a poet to save himself in prison is amazing and signals that no human being should be completely written off as wasted.
Nicole Serrano
The memoir by Baca "A Place to Stand" was a light read about a young boy who grows up in correctional behavior institutions for the unjust reasons and ends up in numerous bad situations. It really makes you wonder if these correction reform system are really creating results.

Bacca was born into a low income family in estancia. He lived with his mother and father who was an alcoholic as well as his two older sibling: his older sister and Mieyo, his older brother. After series of events his mother...more
Goldfrancine
Excellently written memoir about one man's spiritual journey through parental abandonment and surviving the brutality of an unjust penal code. In a way, A Place to Stand demonstrates the effects on humans when society at large rejects one's culture.
Megh
Jul 21, 2007 Megh rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Latino Lit
This was one of the first books of the Latino Lit genre that I read and I loved it. Jimmy's story is heartbreaking and hopeful.
Jaime
Read this for Chicano lit class. One of my faves. Couldn't put it down.
Courtney Cerefice
I loved this book, real characters, not contrived, believable.
Anne
I can think of SO many people who ought to read this book. Part of Baca's reason for writing was to let people know what prisoners have to endure. This isn't rehabilitation or even punishment, it's deliberate negligence to the point of sadism.
I admire the author's determination in teaching himself to read and to express himself well. With so much material to choose from, the book covers the right things, I think, to give this memoir a plot with a satisfying beginning, middle and end.
I did have...more
Jess
I really enjoyed this book. It was long, hard to get through, and at times it felt overwritten and a little too drawn-out, but by the end I was shedding tears.

Jimmy Santiago Baca--now a prized poet--grew up in New Mexico in an impoverished, broken family. Although he cherishes he memories with his grandparents in their small, rural village of Estancia, his life fell apart when his alcohol father abandoned the family and his mother left to marry a white man who wanted her to keep her Hispanic her...more
Ron
This book has helped me to appreciate the innate intelligence that I must continuously search for within me. This book has challenged me to refuse the internalization of detrimental stereotypes and societal norms that are imposed on my Chicano culture. This book forces me to recognize the sadness that the New Mexican must experience when clashing with the gringo culture. This book has inspired me to see past the thorns of my heritage and into the sacred blooms that are rarely discovered in my br...more
Ada Restrepo
May 18, 2009 Ada Restrepo rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: my Texan and Chicano friends
A Place to Stand, was written by Jimmy Santiago Baca, a Chicano writer introduced to me for first time in the English class I am taking at the City College of San Francisco.

A Place to Stand is an autobiography that details the struggles Baca had to face in order to become a famous writer. But his struggles are not like the ones any writer has to confront… Baca was the product of a mixed family in which he couldn’t fit. The book takes us to his childhood in his hometown in New Mexico, growing up...more
Dania
This book is a memoir of Jimmy Santiago Baca's life. He talks about his many struggles. His life starts off with how he remembers seeing his dad in jail. He was often surrounded by violence. And sadly, his parents abandoned him at the age of two. He lived with his grandmother who told him his parents would come back when they were ready. In school he wasn't doing very well, for he had no idea how to read and write;however, when her was in prison he taught himself how to read and write. Through w...more
Riki
In A Place to Stand Jimmy Santiago Baca chronicles a life begun with an acute awareness of lack, plummeting into a world of punishment for a life he didn’t know better than to lead. I’m both heartbroken and uplifted by Baca’s story. I found myself wanting at some times to comfort him and tell him that there is more to life than he realizes, while other times I wanted to smack him for making what he knew in his heart to be clearly wrong decisions.

In his early days gallivanting with Marcos and fa...more
Vivian
Nov 30, 2012 Vivian is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
The novel a place to stand by jimmy Santiago Baca is a biography of jimmy and his life growing up. Jimmy suffered a lot throughout his life. His dad being an alcoholic and his mother ended up leaving his family for a white man named Richard. The mom lived a very wealthy lifestyle and left jimmy and his two other siblings with jimmy’s grandparents. Jimmy’s grandfather died and jimmy’s grandma sent jimmy and his brother to an orphanage and stayed with jimmy’s sister. Jimmy ran away from the orphan...more
Ryan
Read this book. JS Baca is an amazing poet and this is his memoir. Baca was really important to me in college. He was maybe the first poet I read who helped me realize that poetry doesn't have to be in stuffy textbooks and written by old, dead white men. Healing Earthquakes and Black Mesa Poems changed my perception of poetry. So when I saw that he had a memoir, I started reading it immediately. I had had no idea what his life had been like. Baca did not learn how to read until he was 21 years o...more
Jessica Loomis
This book is about many things, but most profoundly it is about the birth of the soul through the discovery of creativity through language. It is about survival through poetry, the awakening of a poet. Jimmy Santiago Baca's rough childhood lead him towards crime and drugs, and in his early-twenties, he found himself sentenced to five years in a maximum security prison. Unlike many, Santiago was able to rehabilitate himself by teaching himself how to read and write, finding inspiration in Neruda,...more
Briana Mae (TheBookBuddies)
Actual Rating: 3.6


This was actually the first memoir that I've ever read, and I'm reading it for my Multicultural Lit class.. Baca's story definitely has a strong voice beneath it and although I can't say I couldn't put it down, I didn't struggle so much to get through it. It was definitely an inspiring read and I felt so much for Baca and all the injustices he's had to live with the whole first 26 years of his life. I definitely loved reading the development in his character and just in himsel...more
Kim
I really loved this book! While it is sad to read about the life Jimmy Santiago Baca had growing up and all the negative influences constantly pulling him down, resulting in his eventual incarceration, it is also a story of hope. During his time in prison he learns to read and to write poetry. Jimmy is able to conquer his upbringing and put himself on the right path in life. I highly recommend reading this book!
Catherine Theriault
This book is a perennial favorite with students. I'm currently teaching it to students who say they "don't read", however they are fully engaged in Baca's life story, and they are even reading his poetry on their own. All good signs of a teachable book.
Danielle
Very powerful. I loved his descriptions of growing up in New Mexico; reminded me of El Paso. Baca is the model of resilience. His description of the process he went through to learn to read and think like a scholar was fascinating...I was moved by the inclusion of the first letter he wrote. I am a huge fan of stories of prison and redemption and loved this one the most because his redemption came through words and writing. I was most impressed with Baca's ability to paint the men he shared his t...more
Celia
Jun 02, 2008 Celia rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Celia by: John Daniel
This book was recommended to me by a co-worker. Jimmy Santiago had a heartbreakingly difficult growing up - violent father, poverty, orphanage - all of which led him to jail on more than one occasion. Remarkably, though he spends years in prison, he beats the system and teaches himself how to read and write and becomes a published poet. I loved the story of his teaching himself to read and how poetry opened his eyes. However, the insiders' view into the reality of prison and the ridiculously unf...more
Meg Tuite
Transformative and mesmerizing! He is a beautiful human being and one that doesn't hold back! Get ready to be blasted in every internal organ by Baca's work!
Jennifer
May 14, 2012 Jennifer rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who teaches at-risk students
Recommended to Jennifer by: Marla Hyder
Shelves: read-2012
In this memoir, the poet Jimmy Santiago Baca explores his rocky childhood and eventual slide into incarceration. He is so matter of fact about the cold and horrible details of his life but there is also joy in his early years, spent with his grandparents, before he is thrown into the system. Though Baca is functionally illiterate until he teaches himself to read in jail in his mid twenties, he finds passion, inspiration, and a sort of mental freedom through words and eventually poetry. The fact...more
Courtney Coover
This book is the essence of bearing your soul in such a way that brings integrity to the path you have walked, honoring the personal pains & triumphs, & all the while making love to the art of writing. Well done Mr. Santiago Baca
Erin
"Have you seen Blood In, Blood Out? This is the guy who wrote that..."
For many of my male high school students, this is the first book that they have ever read. In true Jimmy Baca fashion, he takes his readers on a journey that runs the spectrum of emotions. He makes no apologies for where he has come from and where he is going. Baca allows the reader to follow along his journey from the first time he enters a jail to visit to beyond his own incarceration and the many lessons he has learned to d...more
Kelly Norton
I knew about JSB from a 7-minute video clip I play during training to illustrate the power of language. As a young person in and out of the system, he taught himself to read and became a poet. That's inspiring enough. In this book, JSB explores his his pitiful parents who abandoned him, his longing for re-connection and connection. All of this set within the context of being a drug dealer and then prison inmate. His insight is intriguing. His ability to transcend is inspiring.
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Jimmy Santiago Baca of Apache and Chicano descent is an American poet and writer.
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“I culled poetry from odors, sounds, faces, and ordinary events occurring around me. Breezes bulged me as if I were cloth; sounds nicked their marks on my nerves; objects made impressions on my sight as if in clay. There, in the soft language, life centered and ground itself in me and I was flowing with the grain of the universe. Language placed my life experiences in a new context, freeing me for the moment to become with air as air, with clouds as clouds, from which new associations arose to engage me in present life in a more purposeful way. ” 8 likes
“I sat back in my wooden chair as they signed the paperwork and stared down at the arm rests, studying the various layers of paint, the chips and cracks. How many hands had gripped them? I wondered. What lives were attached to those hands, what dreams were shattered, what sorrows were they trying to squeeze out of their souls?” 2 likes
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