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There have been a number of memoirs written by men of color about their experiences in prison. Surveying these books as a whole, we can glean a sense, not just of these men’s own personal story and the conditions of their imprisonment, but of the overarching social structures that have been put in place to preserve the status quo and to perpetuate what sociologist and legal scholar Michelle Alexander has called “the new Jim Crow.” Though there have been memoirs about life in prison written by women and by non-minority men, this chapter will focus our attention on those nonfiction books written by American men of color, which largely fall into one of three categories: books that use the experience of imprisonment as a tool for redemption and personal growth; those that focus on the unfairness, bias and brutality in prisons, including the stories of those who have been wrongfully imprisoned; and finally, those more unclassifiable books that either glamorize incarceration or formally enact the trauma that the author has survived and that have no apparent polemical intention save the ethnographic prerogative to record the internal and external changes manifest by incarceration.
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- Taxonomy of Genre: Prison Memoirs by American Men of Color