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Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of…

Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett

by Jennifer Gonnerman

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Gonnerman waits until the end of the book to explain her relationship with Bartlett, which is more than a little annoying, since you don't know the source of much of her information. Certainly reading this will give you pause about the Rockefeller drug laws of NY state (if you weren't already in doubt about their use), and critically question the utility and application of the War on Drugs.

The story is one of a sad and largely regrettable life, in which Elaine Bartlett constantly struggles upon her release to balance her own needs and those of her children and many other extended family responsibilities, all the while adjusting to "life on the outside" after nearly two decades in prison.

The conclusion of the book is more than a little unsatisfying, because the reader, either as a function of the writing style, the story itself, or both, inevitably comes to sympathize strongly with the protagonist (Bartlett). As a result, the ending, which is left rather open and unconcluded will leave the reader wanting to know more about Bartlett's successes and failures. ( )
  Valhallas | Nov 12, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312424574, Paperback)

Life on the Outside tells the story of Elaine Bartlett, who spent sixteen years in Bedford Hills prison for selling cocaine--a first offense--under New York's Rockefeller drug laws. The book opens on the morning of January 26, 2000, when Bartlett is set free and returns to New York City. At 42, she has virtually nothing: no money, no job, no real home.

All she does have is a large and troubled family, including four children, who live in a decrepit housing project on the Lower East Side. "I left one prison to come home to another," Elaine says. Over the next months, she clashes with her daughters, hunts for a job, visits her son and husband in prison, negotiates the rules of parole, and campaigns for the repeal of the laws that led to her long prison term.

Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Records, says: "At a time when the prison-industrial complex is destroying African American families and neighborhoods, Elaine Bartlett is more than a survivor: she is a heroine. The future of our communities depends on women like her."
Life on the Outside is a 2004 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:20 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Chronicles the life of Elaine Bartlett, a woman who spent sixteen years in prison for selling cocaine, tracing her steps as she is released from prison and tries to reconstruct her life.

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