Prison Experience Inspires Memoirs

When former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick announced from prison his intention to write a memoir, MLive.com blogger Jeff Wattrick responded with a list of his top five jailhouse autobiographies. Now that my own former Governor, Rod Blagojevich, has been convicted and likely faces incarceration, I thought I’d review Jeff’s list in case Rod wants to start writing.

  1. In the Belly of the Beast, by Jack Abbott, who had help from Norman Mailer in publishing his book. Six months after being released from prison, Abbott killed a man and was sent back to jail, where he committed suicide.
  2. Soul on Ice, by Eldridge Cleaver, the Black Panther leader who authored this late 1960s fresh look at race relations that became a classic.
  3. Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes. More autobiographical novel than memoir, the book and subsequent Broadway musical provided insight into the minds of those who tilt at windmills.
  4. The Gulag Archipelago, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. This one’s autobiographical history, giving readers an education about Russia, freedom and suffering.
  5. Son of Hope, by David Berkowitz, also known as Son of Sam. His memoir prompted New York and other states to pass “Son of Sam??? laws to keep criminals from earning profits from their memoirs.

Next week I’ll discuss what motivates prisoners to write memoirs behind bars.