“The prisoner in the photograph is me. The ID number is mine. The photo was taken in 1972 at the medium-security Federal Correctional Institution in Ashland, Kentucky. I was twenty-one years old and had been locked up for a year already-and I had more time ahead of me.”
Growing up, Jack Gantos wanted to be a writer, not a drug smuggler and a prisoner. His dad could always point out those who had done time before, and warned him repeatedly not to get into trouble. However, when young Jack finds himself in a terrible job and needing money for college tuition, he decides to take a risk. He agrees to smuggle a boatload of drugs out of the Virgin Islands with someone he just met. Not only was the trip itself a disaster, as neither seemed to know much about sailing or smuggling, it was only a matter of time before the two were caught and convicted.
Jack describes his time behind bars as terrifying, stressful, and ultimately transformative. It was behind bars that he began writing, the first step toward his life as an author. He crammed his daily entries between the lines of a novel, as prisoners were not allowed to keep diaries. Upon his release, he vowed never to return, and became the celebrated author of the Rotten Ralph picture books (do you know them?? Give them a try-they’re hilarious) and the Joey Pigza series. He’s been awarded the Printz honor award and the Robert F. Sibert honor for his memoir, and I can see why. His short account of the worst year of his life is presented without self-pity or glorification, which is a tricky balance for memoir writers. This great, quick read should appeal to reluctant readers, aspiring writers, and anyone looking for a harrowing adventure, with a side of “Don’t do this, guys-it was horrible.”
Author’s website: http://www.jackgantos.com/
Gantos, Jack. Hole in My Life. Squarefish: New York, 2002. 200 pp. Ages 15 and up.
If you liked this book, you might check out these memoirs:
Bad Boy: A Memoir by Walter Dean Myers
King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography by Chris Crutcher
Good Behavior by Nathan L. Henry
The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner