A testament to how writing and literature can transform lives. Baca's grim memoir of a tragic childhood, some bad (although perhaps understandable) choices during his troubled youth, and his five-year stretch in a horrendous prison is both grueling and riveting. While it is true his prose isn't up to the standard of his poetry, the power behind his redemption through writing and literature more than makes up for it. This is not for the faint-hearted, for the violence is graphic and brutal, and Baca doesn't look away from the awful facts of prison life. This is not a book of easy morality, and I was left ambiguous both about some of Baca's decisions, and some of his attitudes. However, what is clear is that it's a miracle anyone could have survived much of what Baca experienced, let alone go on to be an award-winning poet and an inspiration for others to transform their lives as well. The book may be flawed, as the man may be (aren't we all?), but its value lies in the witness it bears to a man's ability to overcome rejection, abuse, addiction, violence, cruelty, heartbreak, despair and himself, to be worthwhile and useful in the world.