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Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison by…

Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison (2006)

by T. J. Parsell

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This is an intriguing memoir about what happened to the author, a 17-year-old boy who was sent to prison for robbing a Photo Mat with a toy gun. He experienced some horrific things behind bars, including being raped multiple times, and he managed to not only become a law-abiding and productive citizen, but he has also become one of the greatest advocates to stop what happened to him happening to other young men.

I read the Kindle version of this book, and there were numerous punctuation and typographical errors, especially in the last third of the book, that really detracted from the story. I'm not sure if those are in the physical print versions or not.

My only other complaint was that the memoir, towards the end, became quite rambling and disjointed. Still, it's a captivating book. ( )
  schatzi | Aug 19, 2010 |
Great book, can't imagine living through something like that. The last 50 pages I couldn't put the book down. Warning: parts are very graphic but necessary to the integrity of the novel. I have to admit though this is the first novel I read where I noticed several gramatical mistakes that were sometimes distracting but in no way decreases the content. I work for the department of corrections in my state and though I don't work in the prison setting this type of literature intrigues me-it's almost hard to believe that his was a true account as sometimes it reads like fiction (the beauty of a memoir). I liked at the end of the book the author, who since his experience in the prison system has become a successful law-abiding citizen, writes a follow-up to his time as a teenager/young adult in prison therefore leaving the reader with a sense of closure that many books lack. SPOILER: and after looking back on it describes his experience in prison as a love story. 5 stars, must read. ( )
  hendy | Aug 9, 2010 |
This compelling memoir tells the story of an adolescent who goes a bit off the rails (not so uncommon, really), and he ends up in prison as a consequence. There, his latent homosexuality can no longer be hidden and he is preyed on by older, stronger inmates. At time hard to read, always hard to put down, this is a terrific story of redemption. Recommended. ( )
  mikerr | Apr 22, 2010 |
At last, the first book that I truly began and finished in 2010!

I found "Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison" in a local book store, and by reading the back cover of the book I knew I had to have it. It is the first book I've come across where a man tells his own story of rape. In the end, though, this memoir is about more than sexual violence: it is about survival, hope and bravery.

From the back cover:

"When 17-year-old T.J. Parsell held up a Fotomat with a toy gun, he had no idea how severe the consequences of his joke would be. Sentenced to a prison term of four and a half to fifteen years, Parsell was initiated into the torturous system of sexual violence against inmates. On his first day, inmates took turns raping him. When they were done, they flipped a coin to decide who would 'own' him. Forced to remain silent by a convict code (one in which informers are murdered), Parsell was compelled to adapt."

In our society, there are those who would argue that a man cannot be raped; this idea is often especially true of gay men. Unfortunately, these double-standard and stereotypical beliefs have led to the pain, rape and murder of countless of inmates in our prison system.

In the book, Parsell writes of the horrors that he endured and adapted to; in the end, he also offers the reader a vision of hope and recovery. Years of therapy have led to a fufilled life of activism and peace. Today, Parsell is a former president of Stop Prisoner Rape. He has been across the country sharing his story, and now his work culminates in "Fish."

This book is written in a way that provides so much insight into the horrors that so many inmates must have endured -- and be enduring -- in our institutional prisons. Parsell is absolutely corageous in his writing. He details his difficult childhood, his fears about his own homosexuality and the series of events that led to his imprisonment.

I would highly reccomend this book to anyone who wants to open their eyes and hearts to life behind bars. While the book was often heartwrenching, I read it in just over a day and found myself caught up in the tragedy that Parsell faced -- and overcame.

My only qualm with the book was a structural one: each chapter begins with a flashback anecdote in italics. Because of the pace of the book and its twists and turns, I found myself wanted to skip over these flashbacks and get back to the story. While it's clear that the author meant for them to serve as lessons, as messages related to what was going on in the story, often they were so vague that I needed two readings of them to gleam the deeper meaning.

Overall, I think Parsell's story is powerful and I am so glad he shared it with the world. "Fish" is a giant leap towards ending the shame and stigma of prison rape. ( )
1 vote wanderingeileen | Feb 10, 2010 |
At first, I thought this book was riveting. It provided a window into a life that I could never imagine. A teenager, struggling with issues of identity, self-awareness and coming of age while serving time in a pretty heavy duty prison. But it dragged toward the end and when he mentioned praying and talking to God, I really checked out. But prior to that bit, I did find his depiction of prison life interesting and enlightening. You feel for the kid, stuck in a brutal place full of paradoxically hyper-masculine rapists for what sounds like a rather minor offense. But as with most memoirs, it's pretty self-indulgent. It was a decent read, but the author's tone at the end of the book pretty much ruined it for me. Also, there were a lot of typographical and grammatical errors in the book, not related to the vernacular contained within. Things like writing "where" instead of "were." It's a silly thing, but one that should have been caught prior to publishing. ( )
  quinniepants | Sep 9, 2009 |
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For Tom Wasik, the greatest psychotherapist in the world, who holds me tight and keeps me safe at night.
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As a boy, I spent my summers at Camp Dearborn.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786720379, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:04 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A spokesperson for prison rape awareness describes how his imprisonment was marked by sexual brutality, reveals the code of silence that results in the murder of informants, and the impact of his experiences on his subsequent sense of identity.

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