Saturday, February 23, 2008

Book Review: Fish

Oh my. How do I review this book? Fish is one of the most graphic and disturbing books that I've ever read. As many of you know, I tend to read darker topics, so, naturally, this book is dark. But Fish is the story of a boy sentenced to time in prison, and "dark" doesn't even begin to describe the brutality that is recounted in this book. Fish has been on my book list since last fall, and after the author (I believe) left a comment on my blog, I felt even more compelled to take on this story.

Here's a summary:
When seventeen-year-old T.J. Parsell held up the local Photo Mat with a toy gun, he was sentenced to four and a half to fifteen years in prison. The first night of his term, four older inmates drugged Parsell and took turns raping him. When they were through, they flipped a coin to decide who would “own” him. Forced to remain silent about his rape by a convict code among inmates (one in which informers are murdered), Parsell’s experience that first night haunted him throughout the rest of his sentence.

In an effort to silence the guilt and pain of its victims, the issue of prisoner rape is a story that has not been told. For the first time Parsell, one of America’s leading spokespeople for prison reform, shares the story of his coming of age behind bars. He gives voice to countless others who have been exposed to an incarceration system that turns a blind eye to the abuse of the prisoners in its charge. Since life behind bars is so often exploited by television and movie re-enactments, the real story has yet to be told. Fish is the first breakout story to do that.

So did I like the book? Yes. Did I enjoy the book? No. This is not a story you read for enjoyment. It is not entertaining, nor relaxing. It's horrifying, but... at the same time, inspiring. It's a story you read because it reminds you that you're human, you're vulnerable, and that there are injustices in life that far outweigh the day to day problems or inconveniences that people like you or I face.

Fish is a story of youth, of consequence, and of exploitation. It is also a story of grace, but this is not it's sole purpose. Fish exposes a side of humanity that we live in ignorance of, or that we choose not to acknowledge.

We are all representatives of the causes that we support. For me, it's the Christian Children's Fund. For others, it's Child's Play, the Red Cross, or some other association. TJ Parsell, the author of Fish, has chosen prison reform, and his is a first hand account of the mistreatment he suffered under the "protection" of the prison system. Fish is a terrifying record of Parsell's experiences, but his story is one that should be heard, and one that is definitely worth the read.


Blogger cherylann said...

I actually went to the library to find this book but they don't have it... nor do the other libraries in the area. I was thinking of asking them to order it, but do you think I would be the only one who read the book? It sounds very informational. I mean, you hear so many stories about what actually happens in prison... and this seems to be a first hand account. Interesting, but not entertaining... I like that.

February 23, 2008 2:35 PM  

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