Publisher: AK Press
Released: January 11, 2016
Angels with Dirty Faces is no romanticized tale of crime and punishment. The three lives in thishttps://www.akpress.org/index.php/akadmin/catalog_product/edit/id/5714/# creative nonfiction account are united by the presence of actual harm—sometimes horrific violence. Imarisha, dealing with the complexities of her own experience with sexual assault and accountability, brings us behind prison walls to visit her adopted brother Kakamia and his fellow inmate Jimmy “Mac” McElroy, a member of the brutal Irish gang the Westies. Together they explore the questions: People can do unimaginable things to one another—and then what? What do we as a society do? What might redemption look like?
Imarisha doesn’t flinch as she guides us through the difficulties and contradictions, eschewing theory for a much messier reality. The result is a nuanced and deeply personal analysis that connects readers emotionally with the lives of people caught up within, and often destroyed by, our criminal justice system.
What people are saying about Angels with Dirty Faces:
“Walidah Imarisha has written a brave book. It demonstrates both the universality and distinctiveness of three lives enmeshed through the US prison system. Imarisha pushes us to give up easy distinctions between innocence and guilt, good and evil, and to experience punishment and imprisonment as the messy, complex systems they are. And she reminds us that, while there are no winners in this game, it is one replete with compassion, care, and resistance enough to permeate walls and cages.” —Rachel Herzing
“We live in a violent state, run by a violent economic trap, that a violent prison system perpetuates and hides. The reality of violence in the US is so pervasive that the state has all the mirrors in the house covered up. Angels with Dirty Faces is a memoir of a reality so crucial and transformative that the state is desperate to keep it locked out of our collective consciousness. And yet we live it. Here, Imarisha is doing the work that we all must do if we are going to have the world we deserve. She is looking deeply at the violence of prisons and the lives and impact of people who have engaged in violent acts with a love that never stops believing that we are more than the violence that structures our days. There is hope, love, and honesty here. And a model for the conversations we need to have right now, right here in hell.” —Alexis Pauline Gumbs
“A brave, honest search for answers regarding incarceration.” —Kirkus Reviews
“I read Angels With Dirty Faces in one sitting, mesmerized by what Walidah Imarisha has accomplished: a daring dive into the real deal about why prisons don’t work, filled with love for hustlers, rebels. and the criminalized, imperfect survivors that the prison-industrial complex locks up. Written in such lyrical, fierce poetry it takes your breath away.” —Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, author of Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home
Walidah Imarisha is a writer, organizer, educator, and spoken-word artist. She is the author of the poetry collection Scars/Stars and co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements. She has facilitated writing workshops at schools, community centers, youth detention facilities, and women’s prisons.