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Writing My Wrongs

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  3,490 ratings  ·  467 reviews
In 1991, at the age of nineteen, Shaka Senghor shot and killed a man. He was a young drug dealer with a quick temper who had been hardened by what he experienced selling drugs on the unforgiving streets of Detroit. For years, as he served out his sentence for second degree murder, he blamed everybody else but himself for the decision he made to shoot on that fateful night. ...more
Paperback, 314 pages
Published 2013 by Drop a Gem Publishing
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Average rating 4.23  · 
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 ·  3,490 ratings  ·  467 reviews

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Carolina Ordoñez
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredible book that every one should read once in their lives. This is what Writing My Wrongs made me feel:

1. CONTRIBUTION: I thought I was contributing and helping enough till I read your book Shaka, there is so much more I can do and this pushed me to find non profit that helps women to teach them what I teach (I am a coach for women, I teach women how to boost self-esteem and be happy).

2. JUDGEMENT: I do have a confession to make. Before I met you part of me would still judge othe
J Beckett
Jun 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Title: Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison

Published: March 8, 2016

Author: Shaka Senghor

288 Pages

The Review: Writing My Wrongs

Shaka Senghor's memoir, Writing My Wrongs, exemplifies an emotional exposé, riddled with confessions that enlighten the audience and gives a human face to the incarcerated. What I was expecting was another book of distorted and dehumanizing criminology, basking in some super-imposed and caustically tainted surreal world. The thing is, I got
Mar 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Full post at

Short Form Review: Author Shaka Senghor provides an insightful look into prison life, contextualizing it with personal anecdotes from his youth. Purposeful and inspirational, readers learn exactly how one learns to love and forgive after committing murder.

Five years into his sentence for a murder resulting from a drug interaction gone awry, author Shaka Senghor received a letter. Sent from the victim’s godmother, the letter expressed both her
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I vacillated between 4 and 5 stars but ultimately, this book is a solid 4 because while it is a compelling, engaging read, it doesn't radically stand out from any other redemption story out there. Redemption stories are, by their very nature, predictably full of plot lines that crest, dip then crest again.
However, this is the first time that I've really understood how the prison system is designed to rob people of their humanity. The constant upheaval, the threat of violence from all corners, t
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: Whitney (Brown Books & Green Tea)
I read this book concurrently with Just Mercy, and it occurred to me partway through that while I'd read books like that one that dealt with the prison-industrial complex, bias, and wrongful convictions, and I'd read books about people held captive for other reasons, I hadn't (that I could remember) read a memoir by a person who served a prison sentence for a crime he fully admits to committing. It's one thing to hear the worst-case scenarios about prison life from an author trying to shock you ...more
Laila (BigReadingLife)
Mar 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laila (BigReadingLife) by: Whitney (Brown Books & Green Tea)
incredibly readable and engaging. Senghor details the circumstances of his life that led to his shooting and killing a man, and what it took to redeem himself by both his own standards and society's standards. A hard look at what prison life is like and how difficult it is to emerge with your sanity and dignity intact. I'm so glad I read this. ...more
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My students and I have been reading this really important book this semester, hot off the shelf. It never fails, as with all of Shaka's books, it is the one reading they ALL get into! Afterwards, they are able to put all the pieces together of the things I have had them read and watch and think about in the course. A must-read for sociologists, criminal justice majors, teachers, and all parents! Congratulations, Shaka Senghor on this life-changing work. It is the blueprint on how we might read a ...more
Jessica White
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison.
That subtitle rings true throughout the entire book.
James White, Pumpkin, Jay. Only 19 years old and his life is about to change....
He knew he was going to prison the night he shot to kill. He knew his life was virtually over when he had just made a new one. He knew Brenda was going to raise their baby alone while he sat in a prison cell. His lawyer promised 10 years, but he was sentenced to 40 years behind bars.
He had been dealing crack and runn
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 04-star, 2018
I first saw Shaka on Oprah's Super Soul Sunday and thought he was so powerful in telling his story so I knew I had to read his book. The book did not disappoint.

Shaka grew up in a middle class family in Detroit but he struggled with physical and emotional abuse he received from his mother. He doesn't go into great detail about the abuse but the reader knows it's a central part of why he turned to the streets. He wanted to feel loved and validated and thought the streets would provide that to him
Even an angry convicted murderer serving 19 years in prison (7 of those in solitary confinement) can turn his life around and become a positive influence and an asset to society. We need to stop judging and start loving more. A truly inspirational book about hope and redemption.

If you don't want to read the book, at least watch his interview with Oprah:
Ret Yeager
Dec 14, 2016 rated it liked it
While I admire the way this troubled youth found his way back to a "normal" society, I wasn't thrilled with the writing. ...more
Emma Paulet
Reading this while finishing the last season of The Wire made me appreciate just how entrenched in realism the show is. But this isn't a review of The Wire, which you should definitely watch, it's a review of Shaka Senghor's memoir, Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison. It actually takes place in a number of American prisons, which was an eye-opener to me because I didn't realise the regularity with which prisoners are transferred. I first came across Shaka Sengho ...more
Esteban Angeles
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic memoir that everyone should read. The book provides a perspective that often goes unheard and forgotten about. Highly recommend!
Nita Bee
Jun 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: july-reads-2013
Yet another great read by Shaka Senghor, only this book is his memoir, his true life story. He gives a very vivid and detailed description of his life in the streets of Detroit and the time he spent in prison. This is a story of a lost soul filled with, family issues, anger and a need to belong which he found in the streets of Detroit. After landing himself in prison for murder he had time to re-think his wrongs, which took a while but he slowly turned his life into something meaningful and posi ...more
There have been a lot of prison memoirs published over the last decade. There is much to be learned from these memoirs, and it's important that there is space for these experiences to be heard, but some are more skillfully told than others. Senghor is a talented, thoughtful writer who avoids too much sentimentality and portrays his experience critically and with an eye toward criminal justice reform writ large, and not just as it applies to his own story.

I am teaching a unique course this semes
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Turn Your Mess Into a Message

“The ultimate betrayal, however, and the hardest thing for me to deal with, was my own betrayal. I had turned my back on myself the first time I picked up drugs, alcohol and guns. I had given up on myself. In fact, I had never even given myself a chance to succeed.”

In the wee hours of the morning an action and reaction in the span of a few seconds changed lives forever. A man was dead and nineteen-year-old Shaka was responsible.

“Writing My Wrongs: A Memoir” by Shaka
Cyrus Carter
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent memoir of a man's fight from the streets through the broken prison system to redemption of his soul. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the personal impact of the racially polarised US. ...more
Jul 05, 2016 added it
[No star rating because that just seems wrong.] David Foster Wallace wrote an essay about how sports memoirs have so much promise--people flock to them because they're meant to uncover the psyches of those who have achieved athletic domination. What makes them win? What motivates them to be the best? And then you actually get something like "I had just won Wimbledon. And it was thrilling." There is a little of that with this book for me. The memoir is supposed to detail how Shaka went from a 19- ...more
Mar 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wise, well crafted, and brimming with tremendous strength and talent. The redemptive journey from streets to prison to transformed man is of course a classic tale -- but Shaka Senghor's version is all at once artfully gripping, socially relevant, and deeply human. He makes us see and feel the world through his eyes: first as a hopeful and eager-to-please child; then as a lost and jaded youth, drifting through numerous forms of heartbreak and vicious self-sabotage, both on the streets and behind ...more
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very good autobio of a man who spends some time in prison:
How he got himself there and how he means to get himself out.
How his incarceration affects his family.
And mostly how he works to help others put prison behind them or not go there in the first place.

It's quite readable though I saw a few places it could be tighter.
Note: I hope i write as well someday. :)
Josephine Burks
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great memoir of how one can make such terrible decisions and not realize it until it's too forward to now the author is making great contributions to his community and is a testament to how even the most hardened criminals can be rehabilitated. ...more
Kathleen Guth
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kristen has suggested some good books lately that let's you peek into the window of inner-city poverty and violence. This was one of them. It is a compelling story and worth the read. ...more
Writing My Wrongs is a book with so many different levels of nuances. It speaks of a young boy's personal journey and the journey so many young black men take in through the justice system and how that system is a failure at the supposed reform that it is supposed to make in someone's life. The journey that Mr. Senghor takes from a young man scared of the dissolution of his parent's marriage, and the anger he harbored of his mother not loving him and telling him that she wishes he had never been ...more
I met Shaka Senghor at the OLC Conference in Sandusky, Ohio in 2016. To this day, I still remember his speech bringing me to tears, although I can't remember the context (from what I can recall, I believe it was him either describing the time he was shot at 17 or the moment when he was arrested). I bought his book after his speech. Three years later, I finally read his book, and I really regret not reading it sooner.

My interest in the American prison system piqued after both reading and watching
I have a hard time articulating my feelings about this one - I may have to circle back. Not even sure how to rate it yet.

This is the story of Shaka Senghor - how/why he ended up killing a man, at 19, how he spent the next 20 years behind bars, and how he's been trying to right his wrongs since he got out.

It was a very interesting read - the book does a really good job to make you understand how things get out of hand, it helps you to be more compassionate and empathetic, and to believe in second
Kofi Anane
Jan 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Serves as an important book for young men and women who are going through it, know someone going through it, or know someone who needs to see the lesson from a distance before they learn it themselves first hand.
This book serves as a reminder that there is a lesson to be learn through every circumstance. There will be a ripple of positive effects for every person that takes the time to read this book.
This book provides insight into the justice systems design and so many sickening examples of wh
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Powerful story.

My wife saw him talk at the Ohio Library Council Conference & Expo as the closing Keynote speaker in 2016. She enjoyed his talk and thought this book would be right up my alley. Shaka goes back and forth between his early upbringing in Detroit and his stint in the Michigan prison system. I can't possibly understand or imagine what I would have done if I were in his shoes.

I listened to the the audiobook, read by the author. Shaka's story of pain, reflection, and redemption is heart
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely a must read. An eye opening, emotional, heartbreaking and inspiring journey. Realizing my own potential - and passion - to change the world around me.
“That’s why I’m asking you to envision a world where men and women aren’t held hostage to their pasts, where misdeeds and mistakes don’t define you for the rest of your life. In an era of record incarcerations and a culture of violence, we can learn to love those who no longer love themselves. Together, we can begin to make things right
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This book struck me as impressively honest and brutal. The author explores the events of his childhood and the positive & negative impact they had on the person he became. He also delves into the details of the crack trade in Detroit and the absolute insanity of prison life, which is like nothing I ever imagined. As an aside, I was appalled at the number of times he was transferred during his 20 years of incarceration. I don’t understand the logic behind it and wish it had been better explained. ...more
Sep 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent! I needed this... it’s a timely read given what is going on with our US neighbours to the south and, to some not insignificant extent, here in Canada as well. The author’s voice is not angry... at least, not in the retelling of his experiences. He’s angry that he got sucked in and that he was so quick and willing to buy into the gangsta mentality, but he doesn’t blame others for his choices and decisions. If anything, his voice is filled with wonder and love and discovery. Well worth t ...more
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How did this book impact how you see the prison system 3 24 Apr 27, 2017 01:52AM  

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“One of the greatest gift you can give another human being who is going through adversity is HOPE.” 3 likes
“That’s why I’m asking you to envision a world where men and women aren’t held hostage for their pasts, where misdeeds and mistakes don’t define you for the rest of your life. In an era of record incarcerations and a culture of violence, we can learn to love those who no longer love themselves. Together, we can begin to make things right.” 2 likes
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