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Larceny in My Blood: A Memoir of Heroin, Handcuffs, and Higher Education

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A fully illustrated graphic memoir of a child of the '60s who was raised into a life of crime and addiction -- but graduated into freedom. Matthew Parker was in his mid-forties when he started college. He’d been sidetracked: Eleven years were eaten up by serving time in various county jails, state penitentiaries, and federal prison. He’d been arrested more than thirty time A fully illustrated graphic memoir of a child of the '60s who was raised into a life of crime and addiction -- but graduated into freedom. Matthew Parker was in his mid-forties when he started college. He’d been sidetracked: Eleven years were eaten up by serving time in various county jails, state penitentiaries, and federal prison. He’d been arrested more than thirty times, racking up eight felonies in a crime career that began at age thirteen, when he started dealing pot. When he got out of prison for the last time and kicked his heroin addiction, he was determined to spend the next chapter of his life in the classroom. And he did just that, going on to complete a master’s degree from Columbia University’s highly competitive creative writing program.Through captivating black-and-white illustrations drawn in a distinctively primitive style, Larceny in My Blood flashes back on Parker's childhood, with memories of a loving but lawless mother teaching him that breaking the law was the way to survive. From there it moves to an account of Parker’s lost decades, where he resorted to petty crime to support a heroin habit. After years of fighting the system, Parker sees the light and Larceny in My Blood becomes a poignant portrait of a man trying to find his way in the straight and narrow. A unique memoir, Parker’s images and words form a mesmerizing road to redemption.


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A fully illustrated graphic memoir of a child of the '60s who was raised into a life of crime and addiction -- but graduated into freedom. Matthew Parker was in his mid-forties when he started college. He’d been sidetracked: Eleven years were eaten up by serving time in various county jails, state penitentiaries, and federal prison. He’d been arrested more than thirty time A fully illustrated graphic memoir of a child of the '60s who was raised into a life of crime and addiction -- but graduated into freedom. Matthew Parker was in his mid-forties when he started college. He’d been sidetracked: Eleven years were eaten up by serving time in various county jails, state penitentiaries, and federal prison. He’d been arrested more than thirty times, racking up eight felonies in a crime career that began at age thirteen, when he started dealing pot. When he got out of prison for the last time and kicked his heroin addiction, he was determined to spend the next chapter of his life in the classroom. And he did just that, going on to complete a master’s degree from Columbia University’s highly competitive creative writing program.Through captivating black-and-white illustrations drawn in a distinctively primitive style, Larceny in My Blood flashes back on Parker's childhood, with memories of a loving but lawless mother teaching him that breaking the law was the way to survive. From there it moves to an account of Parker’s lost decades, where he resorted to petty crime to support a heroin habit. After years of fighting the system, Parker sees the light and Larceny in My Blood becomes a poignant portrait of a man trying to find his way in the straight and narrow. A unique memoir, Parker’s images and words form a mesmerizing road to redemption.

30 review for Larceny in My Blood: A Memoir of Heroin, Handcuffs, and Higher Education

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brook

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Okay so I'm not usually a reader of either graphic novels or memoirs, but the combination of the two in LARCENY IN MY BLOOD is irresistible. Matthew Parker has transformed his years as a "baby lifer" going in and out of state and local prisons for drug-inspired felonies into a charming, insightful, and totally hilarious tale of "handcuffs, heroin, and higher education." Jumping back and forth in time between his release from federal prison in Arizona in 2002 and his childhood in Bridgeport, Conn Okay so I'm not usually a reader of either graphic novels or memoirs, but the combination of the two in LARCENY IN MY BLOOD is irresistible. Matthew Parker has transformed his years as a "baby lifer" going in and out of state and local prisons for drug-inspired felonies into a charming, insightful, and totally hilarious tale of "handcuffs, heroin, and higher education." Jumping back and forth in time between his release from federal prison in Arizona in 2002 and his childhood in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he joined his mom's pot-dealing business at age 13, and his eventual adventures in Columbia University's creative writing program, of all places.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I had heard several interviews with Matthew Parker (on the excellent FilmDrunk Frotcast) before he released this book. I found him absolutely fascinating, and this book didn't fail my expectations. It's a graphic novel, written and illustrated by Parker, that encompasses most of his rather colorful life. Which is putting it mildly. Parker is originally from Connecticut, where he dropped out of high school (later getting his GED in prison), and started a life of low-level criminal activity (and be I had heard several interviews with Matthew Parker (on the excellent FilmDrunk Frotcast) before he released this book. I found him absolutely fascinating, and this book didn't fail my expectations. It's a graphic novel, written and illustrated by Parker, that encompasses most of his rather colorful life. Which is putting it mildly. Parker is originally from Connecticut, where he dropped out of high school (later getting his GED in prison), and started a life of low-level criminal activity (and became a heroin addict). Mostly drug dealing and shoplifting. After he and his family (most of whom were similarly "employed") moved to Arizona, he finally entered the prison system. He did a total of about 11 years, off and on, mostly in state and federal prison. His last stint ended in 2002, at age 42. After getting sober for the last time, he went back to school, got a bachelor's degree from Arizona State, then entered Columbia's MFA program in creative writing. This is an absolutely engrossing book. I read it in two sittings, more or less, both on the same day. He alternates the story between his time as a junkie and convict, and his post-prison life navigating college and graduate school in a society heavily biased against ex-cons. He is very open and honest about his life, and what I found liking the most was his unapologetic tone. Oh, to be sure, he thinks what he did was incredibly stupid. He regrets being a junkie, and living a life of crime, and is frank about his own character failings. But it isn't a story of redemption through external means. He didn't find God, or gods. He hated 12-step programs, because as an atheist he simply could not follow the basic thought processes they demand. There was no singular transforming event. He simply came to realize some important facets to his own personality, and decided to change his path, simple as that. I highly recommend this to, well, anyone. There is some "bad" language, and imagery, but it's a graphic novel about prison and being a junkie. I imagine anyone picking this up would expect a bit of profanity. He has said in interviews that he has a full-length memoir planned, and I very much look forward to reading it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mandee Seeley

    You know what I love about graphic memoirs? They can be so damn vulgar, but it's okay, because it's like you're watching a cartoon. This story was intense. It's all about Matthew Parker, his (many) incarcerations, his heroine addiction, and his climb out of its grip. I'm a former addict, so I like reading about other people who have experienced it to remind myself that I'm not alone. I never touched heroine, but I'm glad every day because of how people explain it. I know it would have ruined me. You know what I love about graphic memoirs? They can be so damn vulgar, but it's okay, because it's like you're watching a cartoon. This story was intense. It's all about Matthew Parker, his (many) incarcerations, his heroine addiction, and his climb out of its grip. I'm a former addict, so I like reading about other people who have experienced it to remind myself that I'm not alone. I never touched heroine, but I'm glad every day because of how people explain it. I know it would have ruined me. Matthew's story is hard to read, but it's also very inspirational. He seems hopeless at first because of his crazy run in with the law time after time, but he made it. Anyone who has had a little trouble in their lives should read this. No matter WHAT you did in the past, you can change your future. Matthew's life is a perfect example of that. Great book, I would love to read an update.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Sundt

    Part jailhouse memoir and part journey into higher education. It's always compelling to witness character transformation such as Parker's, from a life of petty crime and drugs to writing assignments and group projects toward post-graduate education. Gives hope to the rest of us, I guess. The artwork is rough but earnest, switching between prison life (of which there is a lot to learn) and life in college (also a lot to learn, with plenty of bureaucratic tedium, particularly for an ex-con). Some Part jailhouse memoir and part journey into higher education. It's always compelling to witness character transformation such as Parker's, from a life of petty crime and drugs to writing assignments and group projects toward post-graduate education. Gives hope to the rest of us, I guess. The artwork is rough but earnest, switching between prison life (of which there is a lot to learn) and life in college (also a lot to learn, with plenty of bureaucratic tedium, particularly for an ex-con). Some parts of this narrative felt winding; some, in tame 2-D depiction, left me wondering just how Parker made it out of his sordid world alive. And then, at the end of it all, I realize I hold in my hands the product of that very personal struggle, and then I'm just plain impressed. Massive kudos to the people like this author who fight the good fight.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Derek Siegel

    Really enjoyed the author taking us through the various stages of his life - I both appreciated how it jumped around in time, but there didn't seem to be much narrative structure in terms of when we jumped forward or back. I particularly liked how the author explored his relationship with his family and his relationship with drugs. He's got a dry sense of humor, which was also a plus!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lilliam

    I was pretty pleasantly surprised. I picked it up at a 2.99 used graphic novel sale where I work and the whole "convict turned Ivy League MFA" intrigued me. I saw it more structured like a screenplay. People are hung up by the medium he used and the method he used to portray it, but to the extent he utilized illustration was reminiscent of older Bugs Bunny cartoons where the narrator said something and it was illustrated below. I believe how he used the medium was very telling of the time period I was pretty pleasantly surprised. I picked it up at a 2.99 used graphic novel sale where I work and the whole "convict turned Ivy League MFA" intrigued me. I saw it more structured like a screenplay. People are hung up by the medium he used and the method he used to portray it, but to the extent he utilized illustration was reminiscent of older Bugs Bunny cartoons where the narrator said something and it was illustrated below. I believe how he used the medium was very telling of the time period he grew up in. It's not your traditional graphic novel and it's not your traditional memoir. I've worked with ex-cons and can appreciate the story he was telling and how he chose to tell it. If you're going into this expecting the graphic to tell the story versus words, you're not receiving the story correctly. He uses illustrations to emphasize his words and almost expresses a sense of irony when he does so. No, the illustrations aren't the best but it's what gives the story it's real characteristic. It's something I'd expect from an MFA, actually. The thing about ex-cons is that they're never fully rehabilitated. His parallels of university to prison are fairly spot-on and it's quite insightful as to how we as a modern society perceive felons. It speaks volumes and is very important, I believe, in the whole rehabilitation farce that the prison system attempts to portray. I believe this is a very important novel in expressing how felons aren't just ne'er-do-wells with zero intelligence. They're quite intelligent and if they focused their intelligence for good, then we'd go far. But it highlights the hypocrisy of the bureaucracy involved in prison AND in university as well as the limitations of liberals involved in rehabilitating prisoners despite their intellectual potential. He did a bold thing releasing this. The back and forth of timeline is very modern in film, which makes me believe he could've done more with this for film versus the medium he chose. Great job, though. It's very honest.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Smitty

    I found this book nearly impossible to read. Picking the right medium is the first task in figuring out how to tell a story. Comics is not Parker's medium. Every single panel has a caption box at the top above a panel illustrating what the box says, usually with word balloons. The dialog or text in the panel itself, generally redundant or unnecessary, breaks the flow of reading and makes the whole thing tedious and slow. Someone one needs to get this man a copy of "Understanding Comics" and teac I found this book nearly impossible to read. Picking the right medium is the first task in figuring out how to tell a story. Comics is not Parker's medium. Every single panel has a caption box at the top above a panel illustrating what the box says, usually with word balloons. The dialog or text in the panel itself, generally redundant or unnecessary, breaks the flow of reading and makes the whole thing tedious and slow. Someone one needs to get this man a copy of "Understanding Comics" and teach him to show, not tell. The entire book could have been told in a 20 page novella of just the captions sans drawings and be better for it. Plus, calling the drawings "crude" would be a terrific understatement. The poor drawing and poor use of the visual storytelling medium, coupled with a difficult non-linear narrative, made this a chore to read. I may admit to skimming parts, hoping if I got far enough ahead it would get better, and then being disappointed when it didn't.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Camille

    This was interesting but the narrative was a little hard to follow at times. Some chapters seemed scattered because they consisted of different time periods with no pause or interjection in the text. I expected a little more than a three page revelation at the end; I was sympathetic to Parker's situation throughout the text until the last few chapters. I thought Parker did a really good job getting the reader to sympathize with him, regardless of the fact that most of his problems were self-infl This was interesting but the narrative was a little hard to follow at times. Some chapters seemed scattered because they consisted of different time periods with no pause or interjection in the text. I expected a little more than a three page revelation at the end; I was sympathetic to Parker's situation throughout the text until the last few chapters. I thought Parker did a really good job getting the reader to sympathize with him, regardless of the fact that most of his problems were self-inflicted and he didn't appear to be learning from his mistakes until the last few pages. By the last few chapters my sympathy started to sway, and I was a little annoyed that he was continuing to hurt people. Overall, his "wake up call" seemed short and tacked on at the end. It would have been nice to see a longer transition regarding his growth as a person, but it was still an enjoyable read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brianna

    I found this memoir of Matthew Parker's transition from junkie and convicted felon to clean and sober university graduate very compelling. I think in part this was because it is told in a very matter of fact way. The narrative flicks back and forth between the past and the relatively near present of Parker's life, the reader sees the clearly intelligent Parker making stupid decisions for a very long time in his past, interspersed with, the frankly, not completely likeable, present Parker's decis I found this memoir of Matthew Parker's transition from junkie and convicted felon to clean and sober university graduate very compelling. I think in part this was because it is told in a very matter of fact way. The narrative flicks back and forth between the past and the relatively near present of Parker's life, the reader sees the clearly intelligent Parker making stupid decisions for a very long time in his past, interspersed with, the frankly, not completely likeable, present Parker's decisions as a clean student to keep working towards his goals. As a graphic novel there were lots more words than usual and the illustration style is fairly basic but as I prefer more words rather than less this style suited me fine. Potential trigger/distaste warnings: Drug use, profanity, sex/nudity

  10. 4 out of 5

    Vincent

    This book was recommended in, I think, The New YorkTimes. It was/is my first experience with a "graphic" book. Well first it was not a big comic book. It aided communication but also focused attention more that just words would do. It ran 278 pages and, unlike my initial thought, did not take less time to read than a regular 278 page book. It is an interesting story and not one I would normally get to be exposed to. It is very interesting and worth reading but still I would have to say it did not m This book was recommended in, I think, The New YorkTimes. It was/is my first experience with a "graphic" book. Well first it was not a big comic book. It aided communication but also focused attention more that just words would do. It ran 278 pages and, unlike my initial thought, did not take less time to read than a regular 278 page book. It is an interesting story and not one I would normally get to be exposed to. It is very interesting and worth reading but still I would have to say it did not meet the 4 star level, for me, of Goodreads ratings. I got the impression some of the nasty parts of this guys life were passed over - which maybe aided in being able to follow the book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Staci Miller

    A hard to follow narrative timeline told through poor illustrations and a mixture of the author's handwriting and Times New Roman. It felt as though the panels were slightly bloated with speech bubbles and while Parker could whip up a beautiful drawing of a bird, the strange drawings of humans dominate the book (obviously). I am also not a prude but the constant objectification of females by an ex-con at some point just becomes daunting to read. If you're true replacement addiction is herion, st A hard to follow narrative timeline told through poor illustrations and a mixture of the author's handwriting and Times New Roman. It felt as though the panels were slightly bloated with speech bubbles and while Parker could whip up a beautiful drawing of a bird, the strange drawings of humans dominate the book (obviously). I am also not a prude but the constant objectification of females by an ex-con at some point just becomes daunting to read. If you're true replacement addiction is herion, stop talking about tits so much.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Walt Kuhlman

    Great graphic biography of one mans experiences, through drugs, prison, and the halls of Columbia University. Stark parallels are drawn between the institutions, and the similar casting systems. The author approaches this absurdity with a keen wit and humor, a great piece of work.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A complete waste of my time and money. I think we have more than enough stories that revolve around making a mess of one's life via drugs and crime.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    Simply a great book. Enjoyed every page, looking forward to many rereadings of this book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kristin C.

  16. 4 out of 5

    amanda

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Pfeifer

  18. 4 out of 5

    Renee

  19. 5 out of 5

    JayDeeReading

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andee

  21. 4 out of 5

    Gina

  22. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

  23. 4 out of 5

    Stig Hamnvik

  24. 4 out of 5

    Johanna

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda K

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  27. 4 out of 5

    Liza

  28. 4 out of 5

    Suzanne

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sara Nagorski

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