The Graybar Hotel - Curtis Dawkins

Staff Pick

With one exception, these impeccable, well-honed stories take place in Michigan correctional facilities. Also with few exceptions, the narrators are unnamed, while other characters are known by nicknames or numbers. “The world of prison is upside down,” Dawkins says, and old identities no longer hold. Writing from inside, Dawkins tells you a lot you may not know about prison life. He explains how to mix “ink” for tattooing and how to use “a sharpened guitar string” as a needle. He explains the uses of lies and cigarettes, the rules of making phone calls out and how to get lonely strangers to accept collect calls. He shows how much baseball and TV can mean, even shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, and how to go about an act of civil disobedience while locked up. He shows what happens if you cross the warden.  Overall, however, there’s less violence here than you might expect, though the threat of it is always in the air. These aren’t what you’d call “gritty” scenes of desperate lives; these are surprisingly quiet stories, in which one prisoner envies another for “his ability to break down and let the pain loose.” The real enemies here are loneliness and frustration, and Dawkins shows that compassion, not anger, is the way to wear them down, though for most, it’s a lifelong task.

The Graybar Hotel: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501162299
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Scribner Book Company - July 4th, 2017

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