A Question of Freedom, Memoir
At the age of sixteen, R. Dwayne Betts—a good student from a lower-middle-class family—carjacked a man. He had never held a gun before, but with this first offense he’d committed six felonies within minutes. A Question of Freedom chronicles Dwayne’s years in prison, as he reflects back on his crime and makes a decision about how a “moment of insanity” would—or would not--define him. This book is about a quest for identity, one that guarantees a young man’s survival in a hostile environment. As Dwayne writes, “It’s the story of the thirty minutes it took me to shatter my life into the memory of one cell after another, and the cost of walking away from a bad idea a minute too late.” But finally, and most poignantly, this story is about the many ways that books and a passion for writing helped a young man find his way back to the life he’d lost.
“…A lesson on living. How does one become a man after being in a cell? Betts shows us that words are key. This book will unlock your compassion.” – E. Ethelbert Miller, Director of the African American Resource Center, Howard University
“A reminder that no matter how confining our surroundings might seem or how bleak our future might look, as long as we are in touch with our higher selves, we can always tap into both the compassion and the toughness that is in all of our hearts. Betts is a major new voice in hip-hop and I look forward to being inspired by him for years to come.” – Russell Simmons, author of Do You: 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness and Success
"At last, a clear defining voice to express the feelings and hardships of so many young black boys trapped in America's prisons. A survivor among the countless lost souls, Dwayne loudly demands to be heard--in a soft and honest tone. A magnificent journey!"
--Louise Ferrante, author of Unlocked: The Life and Crimes of a Mafia Insider
Shahid Reads His Own Palm, Poems
Gripping and terrifying, eloquent and heartwrenching, this debut collection delves into hellish territory: prison life. Soulful poems somberly capture a time-bending experience and the survivalist mentality needed to live a contradiction, confronting both daily torment and one’s illogical fear of freedom.
“...restrained though fierce talent…surprising and emotionally resonant…” - Publishers Weekly
“Inside silence there is a sliver of light that is the seed of the music of these poems, the origin of a melodic range we seldom see in a poet’s first collection. These melodies move in a harmonic range affirming human struggle with an extraordinary elegance. This collection of song is definite evidence of the gift.” - Afaa Michael Weaver
“Dwayne Betts’ poems - from the first moment I encountered them - read like revelation. This poet has entered the fire and walked out with actual light inside him. These poems - clear, muscular, musical - are what the light says. I’ve waited for this book for years!”- Marie Howe
“These fierce and skillful poems are for our time and place the cry of Blake’s London and of his Auguries of Innocence: A dog starv’d at his master’s gate/ Predicts the ruin of the state. Here is a brother at his brother’s gate. Shahid. A witness. Here, as C.D. Wright has said, is our One Big Self.”- Jean Valentine