I am a secret watcher of Lock Up (MSNBC) on insomnia nights. Why at 2:00 A.M. am I spellbound by the lives of incarcerated people? Because I can’t imagine having to live one moment like that–the clang of metal bars, the echoes of people screaming, the toilet that one has to use in full view of other prisoners and guards, the overcrowding, and especially solitary confinement. And that is just where our heroine, Deborah Jiang Stein, was born and spent the first year of her life with her incarcerated mother.
Deborah’s journey, from prison to foster care, to adoption by a Jewish couple who never spoke of her birth mother, and in fact, tried to cover up the circumstances of Deborah’s birth to protect her, and Deborah’s ongoing identity confusion even about what race she is, and so many other factors, leave a reader breathless to find out how she even survives, let alone lives to become a mother, an award-winning writer and champion of incarcerated women, frequently speaking before large audiences of women in prison, mental health professionals, and more.
This memoir distinguishes itself by giving the scientific facts about children born to drug-addicted mothers, children who have too many foster parents, facts about our prison system, and a fascinating way in which Deborah is able to come to see every point of view, and open to love.
This is a book that teaches all of us how to live in that state of grace called contentment, the ability to stay calm with the paradox of “joysorrow.”
PRISON BABY/ (BEACON, 2014) 176 PP.