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Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison
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Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,316 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
When seventeen-year-old T. J. Parsell held up the local Photo Mat with a toy gun, he was sentenced to four and a half to fifteen years in prison. The first night of his term, four older inmates drugged Parsell and took turns raping him. When they were through, they flipped a coin to decide who would "own" him. Forced to remain silent about his rape by a convict code among ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published August 31st 2007 by Da Capo Press (first published October 11th 2006)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 01, 2008 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I tend not to like books that dwell on the prurient interests surrounding the rapes of young guys in prison, this book held some appeal because it dealt with the prisons in my home state of Michigan.

I had an uncle that made a few mistakes and did a stretch at the state penitentiary in Jackson Michigan. My grandmother often visited my uncle there and usually got my dad to take her. One time my mom and dad decided to drop my grandma off with us kids in the car. The high walls and the machin
Jay Bell
Sep 17, 2011 Jay Bell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who isn’t fascinated by prison life? I’ve watched a slew of movies and documentaries, but they always left me hungry for more detail. When I heard an interview with the author on BBC radio some years back, the concept of a gay man being behind bars intrigued me. Would he find it easier to cope with the sexual aspect of playing a boy to a man that protected him? I finally got around to reading this book recently, and boy was it a much needed eye opener!

I’m not much of a nonfiction guy, but Tim’s
Dec 27, 2011 Robert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What led me this story was an interest in reading someone's tale of surviving prison abuse. I didn't pay much attention to the description of the book or its author.

What I found was a truly emotional story about a young gay man who came from a dysfunctional family and made some very poor choices in life.

How the system treated him was shocking but not a total surprise. What he chose to do with himself during his incarceration and afterwards is inspiring.

The graphic nature of the author's story
Dec 16, 2015 Cory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was completely sucked in and captivated from the start. I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn't fiction, which made some parts difficult to read as it really humanized it for me. I finished it this morning and I can't stop thinking about it. There are people that touched Parsell's life in prison and I keep wondering 'where are they now'? Very eye opening and thought provoking read!
Danny Tyran
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 10, 2015 Gayle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
This book simply has to be read to be appreciated. It is written by a man who was a boy (17) when he was sent to a man's prison for robbing a Fotomat with a plastic toy gun.

In the beginning I was engaged in this boy's story. In that dark world people do whatever it takes to survive, and apparently almost constant sex is what it takes! However, out of 336 pages, probably 300 were just that-s-e-x. I realize the point of the story is getting across how young men who never should have entered an ad
Apr 23, 2014 Kiesha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, lgbt
Sexual violence and prison - two of my greatest fears. Prison hyper-masculinity, power, and rape. In an institutionalized community where violence is one of the few commodities, the author shares his story of sexual abuse and his struggle to come to terms (and self acceptance)with his own sexuality and identity.

This terrible, horrific tale of a survivor's story kept me up two nights in a row. I couldn't relax enough to fall asleep because as soon as I did I knew the night terrors would chase me
Definitely a page turner. You cringe with what might come next. Yet, it is more the sick side of human nature that I found that I was curious about what comes next. You want something awful to happen so you can recoil and the difficulty as to which this man survived the experience. As a true tale, you feel awful for the guy and can't imagine what he went through. It was a really sad read but good. However, I felt like a voyeur - or a serf in medievil times willing going to the Town Square to wat ...more
Sep 08, 2007 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anybody wanting a glimpse into the grim reality of prison life.
This is the true story of a 17-year old boy sent to prison for holding up a photo-mat with a toy gun. Yes, it was a practical joke that put him behind bars for four years. In addition to experiencing prison rape, power politics and the label attached to being inside a maximum-security prison by guards, family and society, he had to go through a painful struggle to accept his sexuality. Not many people can say they came out, were raped in prison and then achieve a stable enough life to feel comfo ...more
Nov 17, 2013 Ilene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a man's story, his real life so how could I adequately review it? I can't it is not my right.

It was gritty, raw and heartbreaking BUT he made it out and thrived. Most writers embellish but I fear that TJ may have actually downplayed some of what happened. I pray that these Hell's he wrote about don't go on anymore but my guess is they still do. Times advance and prisoners get more crafty.

Prisoners deserve prison? Sure but the punishment doesn't always fit the crime.

T.J. thank you for te
Jan 06, 2014 Rick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harrowing, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking, this account of a 17 year old's years in adult prison is not an easy read, but it's ultimately immensely gratifying.
Jennifer Vogel
Feb 29, 2008 Jennifer Vogel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
I found this book as a suggestion on amazon. I'm not into reading gay/lesbian literature, but this was a good book. It is extremely sexually graphic. It gives an account of a young man sent to prison for a relatively minor crime. He is then raped and treated like a piece of property his entire stay in prison. He explains what it's like to be controlled by other prisoners and how there is really no help for men that can't protect themselves. As he did, you just have to give in and put your time i ...more
Jan 24, 2016 K.j. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was easy for me to imagine the struggles the author faced as I have worked in a jail setting. Though I am happy to say nothing like that ever occurred while I was working/or in the facility that I worked at- that any of us know of- I can see how easily those actions could go unnoticed.

The terrible cycle our legal system has created is so disheartening. The people I met from inside those walls were no different than myself. Making a poor decision can change your life forever. And once that de
Mar 15, 2012 Jeannie rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own
Hard hitting and brutal true story of what happens to a young man thrown into a maximum security prison. What stood out for me was his courage in telling his story, most people suffering this treatment in prison wouldn't be as forthcoming about it. He comes out of the system a better person which speaks volumes for who he really is. A good read that never bored me.
Jan 07, 2008 Stinky rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is the prison version of Brokeback Mountain. I'm not prejudice and rape is awful, but on several accounts our author romanticizes about being raped by particular inmates. A pretty naive fellow to boot. This book should have been titled, 'What Not to Say and How Not to Act in Jail." I could only read 90 pages before it hit the airport trash receptacle.
Jul 05, 2008 CMolieri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer, memoir
It's been a really long time since a book was capable of moving me to tears, but by the last pages I was sobbing. Parsell writes about serving time in prison when he was 17 with painful honesty about vulnerability, violence, the brutality of rape, coming to terms with his sexuality in a hostile setting while trying to survive his term. Stunning.
Jul 25, 2011 Lola rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is So brutal. The author is very brave. I hope the prison system will continue to improve to avoid tragedies and mistakes.
Jul 24, 2013 Hannah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
"Chicken Soup for the Gay Prison Raped Soul"

I decided to read the book after binge-watching the Netflix Orange is the New Black, before reading the memoir of the same name that inspired the show, as a sort of grounding action before reading the less representative experiences of Piper Kerman. I found the book at the top of several lists for prison culture non-fiction. Fish: A Memoir is often cited as a sort of songbook for the prison rights' activists since the author, T.J. Parsell, is an activ
Leslie Nicoll
Jul 29, 2011 Leslie Nicoll rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very graphic and at times difficult to read memoir of the author's incarceration, beginning when he was 17. Tim came from a dysfunctional family where the expectation was not that you'd graduate from high school but rather, you'd go to jail. In that respect, Tim didn't disappoint. Convicted of armed robbery for holding up a PhotoMat with a toy gun (the author says he did it to impress the girl working in the booth) he is sent to a high security, closed custody prison. His first day there, drugge ...more
George Ilsley
This review must be split into two parts.

First, the story itself. I kept thinking about "cruel and unusual punishment" while reading this account, because surely facing rape in prison should be considered cruel and unusual punishment. Parsell is young and naive when he enters the prison system, and so are many young adult offenders. I do not agree with the reviewers here who claim that Parsell has "romanticized" his experiences. His reactions was completely believable (perhaps people need to res
Dec 31, 2015 T.S. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I never heard of this book until recently. After the last "page," my Kindle directed me to related books that readers of "Orange is the New Black" have read. Given this, I thought the book would be an interesting comparison, given that it is set in a men's state prison rather than in a women's federal prison. The book, however, provides very little insight into how a state ran prison operates. Instead, it is more of a coming of age story. Specifically, it's how one young man, who enters prison a ...more
Jul 31, 2008 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: geh
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wendy Lu
Jan 17, 2013 Wendy Lu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like the falling down and the getting up and the whole sentiment of hitting the bottom so hard that whatever opportunities God puts in front of you after, you do the work because you're never, ever going back to that place again. I like the failure and the anger and the years of drug abuse and alcoholism and self destruction that come after the precipice. I like the eventual success, and its total lack of poetry, of story narrative rules.

Also, I like the love story here. I don't know whether
Mar 03, 2012 Rhockman rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Todos los que nunca tuvieron ningún tipo de interés en las prisiones
Shelves: chicos, denuncia
El constante ida y vuelta que hay entre la crudeza y el sentimentalismo (que a veces roza el porno) hacen que la lectura del libro se volviera bastante incómoda; el relato no es ficción, todo lo que cuenta el narrador ocurrió y el horror está en el subtexto todo el tiempo.
Una cosa que me sorprendió es la falta de denuncia que había dentro del relato; como lector uno es expuesto a un montón de injusticias que son solo descritas. Pero al final todo se redime en lo que le sigue al relato, en los ca
Dec 31, 2014 Rogier rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, non-fiction, memoir, 2006
Trigger warning galore. I had to take a few day breaks . Haha. I would be messed up if I experienced all he underwent!!!
Aug 24, 2010 Maria rated it really liked it
It appears that how much you enjoy or abhor this books depends on what your looking for when you open it. I knew what I was getting myself into before I started reading. I applaud Mr. Parsell for sharing his story. I can only imagine what courage it must have taken to dredge up what must be the most horrifying encounters of his life.
The book sheds light on prison culture/prison thinking, the frequency of prison rape, and makes one question the practice of sending teenage boys to facilities that
Shiloh Reynolds
Wow, what can I say. Well it can be graphic, it can be almost borderline disgusting. I am glad though that I drove on and finished this book. It tackles a difficult subject for gay men and gay men in prison. The book is really a coming to terms story on a young homosexual man sent to prison. I wont spoil anything but needless to say he does not fare well initially. The book made me consider and think about issues I had never considered. The treatment this young man received in the 70's and 80's ...more
Jessie Gussman
This was NOT what I expected. At all. Which doesn't make it bad, necessarily. It just isn't a book that I would have started had I realized how...explicit it was going to be. I was tempted, more than once, to not only stop reading, but to delete it from my Kindle, my history, from any association of anything of mine. It's definitely not a book I would recommend to my mother, or my daughter. Still...despite total disinterest in the details of his love/sex life and my complete disagreement with so ...more
Sep 18, 2008 Wendy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wendy by: came upon by accident
This is a very intersting book. I have always been interested in the prison stories. I do think that there needs to be many changes in the way the prisons are run and how the prisoners are treated. I'm glad to see that there are people out there making changes. This book is very graphic in what happens to the seventeen year old boy in prison and I found a lot of it disturbing and my heart went out to him, I am glad to hear it has a good ending and that he made a good life for himself.
Jess Lynn
I wanted to give this book more than 3 stars, but I couldn't. I did mostly enjoy it though. Ever since I took a class with inmates in the local jail, I've been very interested in learning about their stories and in learning about prison reform. I figured that I could get some insight into both of those by reading this book, especially since Parsell is now a big advocate of prison reform. Unlike other reviewers, I don't think he "romanticized" his rapes. He spent a lot of time in the book discuss ...more
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“Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage" If I have freedom in my love, and in my soul am free, Angels alone that soar above enjoy such liberty. But thought my wings are closely bound, my heart's at liberty" My prison walls cannot control, the flight, the freedom of the soul.” 3 likes
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