One of the best pure sci-fi books ever written. I can't believe I didn't know about her sooner. Everyone will find something great in this story. But if...moreOne of the best pure sci-fi books ever written. I can't believe I didn't know about her sooner. Everyone will find something great in this story. But if you love Aliens, Sex, Race Issues or Post Apocalyptic settings like me...you are in for a real treat.(less)
Asha Bandele has written a love story. In fact the title of her first chapter is "this is a love story." The most important thing I want to convey abo...moreAsha Bandele has written a love story. In fact the title of her first chapter is "this is a love story." The most important thing I want to convey about this book is that love, true love, is something you can never know until you experience...unless you read this book. The Prisoner's Wife : A Memoir is an intensely intimate, overwhelmingly emotional and utterly heartbreaking work. I can't even call it a novel or a book, because the writing flows like poetry and the love seeps out of every word until you are saturated with it, consumed with her pain and confusion. Bandele has filled 219 pages with universal truths so powerful they cross all boundaries: race, gender, religion and yes, even convict status.
The Prisoner's Wife begins simply enough. A young poet agrees to go read her poetry at a prison as a part of Black History Month. There she meets Rashid who listens to her, values her opinions, takes her seriously and who cannot impose himself on her life. Asha's story is filled with abuse and disappointment and for the first time she is free to be with someone who can demand nothing of her time or self that she doesn't give freely and publicly. For the first time in her life she can control the pace and degree of their relationship.
It is counter intuitive to think that falling in love with someone in prison can offer you freedom but in this case that's exactly what happens. This is the story about two tremendously complicated and damaged individuals, because of their circumstances they are forced to talk and process and really think about what it is they feel and what they are willing to deal with. What's amazing is that their mutual respect and profound love managed to over come what seem like insurmountable obstacles. Because at its core, this is a love story.
I could go on about the plot of the story, the details, the van rides to and from the prison, the other women she met who shared her isolation and confusion. I could tell you of Rashid's crime and of his transformation and difficulties due to the prison system. I could rail against the injustices of our penal system and how racism and poverty feed a system that is fundamentally broken. All of that is in here, all of it is explored and will make you think, but no matter how profound these issues may be they pale in comparison to the raw emotions of Bandele's writing:
By the time we did finally come together, I had found the pieces of myself that had been forgotten, left in corners, swept under rugs. I told Rashid he was the first mad who had all of me, the beautiful and the ugly, the perfect parts and the parts which were help together with tape and a prayer. When we entered each other, we entered and then enjoined two worlds that were previously undiscovered.
And within that moment we found home in ourselves, lush and bountiful, we found a place only we could have envisioned and crystallized, a world which pushed forward new life, pushed down old boundaries, and embraced the new moons of its own black and perfect sky.
I first read Pure when I was working in a used bookstore in Brooklyn. It was around when the book first came out and I was able to get my hands on a G...moreI first read Pure when I was working in a used bookstore in Brooklyn. It was around when the book first came out and I was able to get my hands on a Galley Copy. I remember shirking all responsibility at the shop the day I found it in the New Arrival's section. It needed to be shelved, much like the other titles it had been packaged with, but I was too engrossed to bother with working that day.
At the time I was reading a lot of dirty literature and from the title I thought this was going to be a fun and titilating novel. I was wrong. PURE is about a lot of things. And when you first read it it's easy to think it's about a girl's coming of age. There's a lot of sex talk and even some sex (although titilating it decidedly is not). However, what PURE is really about is abuse.
The narrater (name is never given which is an interesting and successful choice) has grown up in a home where the father rules all. His abusive language toward the mother has shaped the way both children regard her and has turned them into tiny abusers themselves. In a home where nothing s ever right, nothing is ever good enough and eggshells cannot be avoided, the narrater has turned all of that hate and self deprication inward.
There is nothing about herself that she values which leads her from one bad decision to the next. Even the very first line of the book shows how she ust doesn't care about herself. "I was about 13 when I started letting the boys feel me up." From drug to domestic abuse, to dating a man 17 years her senior to self mutilation, the narrator continues on a path of self destruction which is not only tragic but within the pages of PURE is completely understandable.
This book isn't for the faint of heart, but it is brilliantly written. The slow boil and intimate prose creates a world where by the end you don't even know who you are rooting for.(less)