"Dwayne Betts was incarcerated for 10 years in an unforgiving place—a place in which he also discovered the incredible power of books and reading. He's written his own life-changing book, which may well prevent other young men from making that detour to prison. A searing and ultimately uplifting story."
—Hill Harper, Letters to a Young Brother
A Question of Freedom chronicles Betts's years in prison, reflecting back on his crime and looking ahead to how his experiences and the books he discovered while incarcerated would define him. Utterly alone, Betts confronts profound questions about violence, freedom, crime, race, and the justice system. Confined by cinder-block walls and barbed wire, he discovers the power of language through books, poetry, and his own pen. Above all, A Question of Freedom is about a quest for identity-one that guarantees Betts's survival in a hostile environment and that incorporates an understanding of how his own past led to the moment of his crime.
"Inside silence there is a sliver of light that is the seed of the music of these poems, the origin of a melodic range we seldom see in a poet's first collection. These melodies move in a harmonic range affirming human struggle with an extraordinary elegance. This collection of song is definite evidence of the gift."
—Afaa Michael Weaver, My Father's Geography
Gripping and terrifying, eloquent and heart-wrenching, this debut collection delves into hellish territory: prison life. Soulful poems somberly capture time-bending experiences and the survivalist mentality needed to live a contradiction, confronting both daily torment and one's illogical fear of freedom. Shahid Reads His Own Palm is the Winner of the 2009 Beatrice Hawley Prize.