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God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption in Louisiana's Angola Prison
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God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption in Louisiana's Angola Prison

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  133 ratings  ·  18 reviews
Never before had Daniel Bergner seen a spectacle as bizarre as the one he had come to watch that Sunday in October. Murderers, rapists, and armed robbers were competing in the annual rodeo at Angola, the grim maximum-security penitentiary in Louisiana. The convicts, sentenced to life without parole, were thrown, trampled, and gored by bucking bulls and broncos before thous ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 5th 1999 by Ballantine Books (first published 1998)
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Mixed emotions about this book. Although it starts out generally as an investigation into the life of some prisoners involved in an on-site rodeo and the work of a warden, it quickly morphs into a work something akin to muckraking. It is hard to find that much sympathy for these murderers (although to some extent you do), and the author tries to maintain a distance (though he doesn't). You almost get the feeling that he isn't telling the whole truth, that he sounds at times almost like his subje ...more
I'm torn between a 3 star and 4 star rating on this book. I'm going to recommend reading it, as it is compelling from a sociological perspective. But the author's personal narrative was a bit too strong, and in comparison to the first half of the book (which was truly excellent), the second half just... sort of... petered... out.

The gist is that the author was given unrestricted access to Louisiana's Angola Prison and followed five inmates involved in the prison rodeo as well as the "reformist"
Lauren Licitra
Aside from a brief glimpse into the prison system in LA the 1990's, this book offers not much more than a poorly written half researched journalistic account of several life serving prisoners. An exploration of hope in a dismal existence and morality questions of whether they deserve to have it provided to them.
The Rodeo still exists today and apparently is thriving. I can't wrap my head around the practice of utilizing men barely trained to handle wild bulls in an arena as entertainment for th
Pretty good book, but I could have had less of Warden Cain and more of the prisoners and the prison. I know the stuff with Cain probably really pissed him off but it just doesn't make for AS compelling reading. Otherwise, it's pretty easy to get into.
This book is only incidentally about rodeo, and even less about God. Yes, Bergner uses a prison rodeo as the structural device to build this account of prison life around. But it's not any kind of rodeo you would see authorized by the PRCA. The events are more treacherous, and the men who participate have no experience. They are a spectacle for a crowd of people looking for the same kind of thrills that drew ancient Romans to the Coliseum.

The book is chiefly about the daily lives of several of t
When journalist Daniel Bergner first visited Angola prison, he was intending to a do a brief magazine article; instead, it turned into a year-long project of meeting with the prisoners, employees, and the warden. Warden Cain had a reputation as being a religious man, determined to help the men find redemption and turn their lives around--even though the majority of them were facing life in prison in a state that didn't offer parole on life sentences. Bergner wanted to know if this was possible a ...more
In general I liked it. It seemed to lose focus by the end. I felt like the middle of the book was building up to something, and then it never came. But I really liked the characters and the writing was good.
Bergner's calm, detached perspective casts the gritty, even disgusting, reality of prison life into stark, sometimes horrifying relief. His great service is to show us the humanity of the inmates without glossing over their crimes or demonizing those who control them; overall, the effect is one of nuanced realism, which makes this portrait of American prison life effective indeed.
Mar 23, 2014 Ray rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
This was a decent book. It's obviously outdated, which made it feel a little futile to read. I want to do some research on what's happened at Angola afterwards. It's also a bit brief and disjointed, and I don't necessarily have a lot of sympathy for the author/narrator. He has some issues with racism and homophobia, etc. But the topic is fascinating.
I've been to the Angola prison rodeo twice. It's somewhat barbaric watching prisoners get tossed into the air trying to take a poker chip off a charging bull's nose but then again it really gives the prisoners a day to have fun and be human again selling their artwork to visitors.
I read this particular book not for the insight into prison life per se, but for the insight into the once a year rodeo at thus Louisiana prison. It came across as pure lunacy with a large mix of desperation and hope. How different US prisons appear to be than Canadian ones.
Loved the characters he focused on and how he developed them through the book.
It's a good book with disturbing insights. Which I guess shouldn't surprise me, but it did. I've requested all of his books from the library...
Jessica Tomlinson
Totally not what I was expecting. Very disappointing. With every page I kept waiting for it to get better. And it never did
This was a good book, wasn't sugar coated at all. Learned that Burl Cain is a man with his best interests at heart...
Went between three and four stars. Pretty accurate on some of the underlyings that occur at the prison.
Non fiction. Prison life in on of the worst of Louisiana's prisons. A good read.
Marsha Sullivan
Oftentimes drawn out account of life in Angola state pen.
Samantha Reed
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Daniel Bergner is a staff writer for the New York Times Magazine and the author of two previous books of nonfiction, IN THE LAND OF MAGIC SOLDIERS: A STORY OF WHITE AND BLACK IN WEST AFRICA, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year, and GOD OF THE RODEO: THE QUEST FOR REDEMPTION IN LOUISIANA’S ANGOLA PRISON, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Bergner’s writing has also appeared in Granta,
More about Daniel Bergner...
What Do Women Want?: Adventures in the Science of Female Desire The Other Side of Desire: Four Journeys into the Far Realms of Lust and Longing In the Land of Magic Soldiers: A Story of White and Black in West Africa Soldiers Of Light Moments of Favor

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