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The Prisoner's Wife: A Memoir

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How did a beautiful, talented college student fall in love with a man serving twenty to life for murder? And why did she marry him? At a time when one in four black men are caught in the web of the criminal justice system, Asha Bandele shatters the myths of prisoners' wives and tells a story of embracing the beauty of love in the ugliest circumstances and of people's abili How did a beautiful, talented college student fall in love with a man serving twenty to life for murder? And why did she marry him? At a time when one in four black men are caught in the web of the criminal justice system, Asha Bandele shatters the myths of prisoners' wives and tells a story of embracing the beauty of love in the ugliest circumstances and of people's ability to change, to do better, to grow. Whether she is describing her restricted but romantic courtship with Rashid -- when letters were like dates, like "whispers on the slow, blue-light dance floor" -- or riding the bus upstate with the other wives and girlfriends, Asha Bandele creates haunting images and reflections so powerful and unique that they beg to be reread and savored. At the same time that she recalls the extreme ups and downs that accompany a relationship constantly scrutinized by guards and surveillance cameras, she confronts her own dark secrets and sadness. The love of a man with an ugly past but a firm belief in redemption is what heals her broken spirit and grants her the courage and confidence to embrace life again. This is a love story extraordinary in its circumstances but universal in its message. With unblinking honesty, Asha Bandele writes about the tenuous balance of power upon which most relationships rest, the deep needs that bring two people together, the jealousy and insecurity that can drive them apart. But most of all, The Prisoner's Wife reminds us why we love -- what we give up for it and what we receive from it.


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How did a beautiful, talented college student fall in love with a man serving twenty to life for murder? And why did she marry him? At a time when one in four black men are caught in the web of the criminal justice system, Asha Bandele shatters the myths of prisoners' wives and tells a story of embracing the beauty of love in the ugliest circumstances and of people's abili How did a beautiful, talented college student fall in love with a man serving twenty to life for murder? And why did she marry him? At a time when one in four black men are caught in the web of the criminal justice system, Asha Bandele shatters the myths of prisoners' wives and tells a story of embracing the beauty of love in the ugliest circumstances and of people's ability to change, to do better, to grow. Whether she is describing her restricted but romantic courtship with Rashid -- when letters were like dates, like "whispers on the slow, blue-light dance floor" -- or riding the bus upstate with the other wives and girlfriends, Asha Bandele creates haunting images and reflections so powerful and unique that they beg to be reread and savored. At the same time that she recalls the extreme ups and downs that accompany a relationship constantly scrutinized by guards and surveillance cameras, she confronts her own dark secrets and sadness. The love of a man with an ugly past but a firm belief in redemption is what heals her broken spirit and grants her the courage and confidence to embrace life again. This is a love story extraordinary in its circumstances but universal in its message. With unblinking honesty, Asha Bandele writes about the tenuous balance of power upon which most relationships rest, the deep needs that bring two people together, the jealousy and insecurity that can drive them apart. But most of all, The Prisoner's Wife reminds us why we love -- what we give up for it and what we receive from it.

30 review for The Prisoner's Wife: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bakari

    By far The Prisoner’s Wife is one of the saddest and most emotionally charged books I’ve read in the least few years. As I got about third of a way into asha bandele’s very introspective memoir, I thought to myself, this book is mainly for women. But as I read on, I thought, this is yet another book that should be taught in classrooms across America, or at least in the inner cities where so many young men and women live a daily life of hardship. Few books are so seemingly honest and reflective a By far The Prisoner’s Wife is one of the saddest and most emotionally charged books I’ve read in the least few years. As I got about third of a way into asha bandele’s very introspective memoir, I thought to myself, this book is mainly for women. But as I read on, I thought, this is yet another book that should be taught in classrooms across America, or at least in the inner cities where so many young men and women live a daily life of hardship. Few books are so seemingly honest and reflective as The Prisoner’s Wife. Of course you could be just swept by the asha’s lyrical writing, but you won’t. Bandele provides no easy answers and no begging excuses. Her story no doubt speaks for many woman dating or married to an imprisoned man they deeply love. And on the surface this is a love story. But for me, it’s about the human condition, especially in America. It’s about how much we’re not control of ourselves as much as we might think. It’s about those roads less taken and paying the price for it. It’s about things you can’t tell other people and live emotionally through the revelations. There’s plenty of summary about this book, but I just want to point a couple of my reactions. First off, right after getting married to Rashid, in their first conjugal love making in a prison trailer, bandele’s gets pregnant. And though you wonder why she didn’t use protection (she does explain why), I personally think it was seriously courageous of her not to bring the baby to term. Some reviewers of the book are very indignant about her decision, but this is a woman who was facing the reality of raising a child by herself, when she wasn’t either emotionally or financially prepared to do so. Sure it might have made the perfect little love story to have her man’s baby, but that would be just story, the ending of a Hollywood movie we all want to see. The real story would have overlooked the challenges and the hardships of bringing another child in the world who might not gotten the love and support that he or she deservesd. As you read the book, at first you might think bandele was naive and emotionally dependent on men. Well part of that may be true, but as you read on, you realize that she was honestly dealing with the cards dealt to her. She could have walked away from it all. She could denied her feelings and emotions, but what effect in the long run could that have had on her as a human being? No, she seems to be a person who found serious love and acceptance with Rashid, and she decided courageously to embrace it, despite all its challenges. Most of us couldn’t and wouldn’t do that. The book was published back in 1999, and of course you wonder what has happened since then. Did Rashid get paroled? I did a Google search and hardly anything came up except an Answers.com response which says that Rashid was “deported to his native guyana after a difficult INS hold; he had not been there since he was a child. they were not together at the time of his release.” She’s written another book about her daughter, but I’m not clear if it was by Rashid. Perhaps I’ll read it and find out.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joanne Nunyabeeswax

    I myself am a prisoners wife. My heart is locked away in a New York prison . Asha's story although very detailed and graphic portrayed the daily struggle of being married to someone incarcerated. The expense, the separation, the long drives. I identified completely with her prison experience. She put in words the struggle and sadness known to few when someone decides not to abandon their loved one. She pointed out the inhuman treatment of wives by correctional staff who view us merely as scum. T I myself am a prisoners wife. My heart is locked away in a New York prison . Asha's story although very detailed and graphic portrayed the daily struggle of being married to someone incarcerated. The expense, the separation, the long drives. I identified completely with her prison experience. She put in words the struggle and sadness known to few when someone decides not to abandon their loved one. She pointed out the inhuman treatment of wives by correctional staff who view us merely as scum. To the trailer visits that for a few short hours we can put the prison out of our mind and bond with our loved one without the prying eyes of correctional staff. This is a must read for any spouse that decides to stand by their loved one. When I made this choice to do this bit with my man I didn't know what it would mean to consciously hand over the control and happiness of my life…not to my man, but to an institution. Asha was able to describe all this. From the very beginning, my man told me that I had the power in the relationship because I was the one who was free.How am I free? What power do I have? I buy my clothes according to what is acceptable for visits. At anytime, I can go anywhere my heart desires, but my heart's desire is trapped within that prison compound. So, where am I going? I stalk the mailman and won't leave the house until he comes, waiting for a white envelope with that familiar handwriting that has taken the place of hugs and kisses. I check the phone several times a day to make sure it's working, waiting to hear it ring and see "unavailable" appear on the caller ID, a sight that has taken the place of the sound of my doorbell or his car horn. Asha put into words that the prison may control our movements , yet our love blossomed. I know Asha is no longer with Rashad. I suspected that because of the red flags in the book. I knew the relationship was not a permanent one.For every one of us who stands by our man, that can endure the bad days and savor the good, there are many who can't. Many just don't even try. To the men whose women have chosen to move on, you must always remember that there are always two sides to every story. Your women might not tell you what's in their hearts, but if you listen hard enough you can hear them. You can hear their confusion and their fear pleading with you to understand, to forgive, to accept, and to remember…Not every woman is strong enough to endure the bad days that the struggle brings. Thank God, I'm strong enough!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joleen

    This book left me gasping for air and swimming in emotions. Asha Bandeleis an incredibly gifted writer, and this novel is the journey of the heart, all the while struggling with her head, with her friends and family and practical awareness of the bleak reality of her love and her marriage. I felt as though she had ripped her beating heart right out of her chest and made me take a bite. The book raises such questions as humans have always wrestled: Is love all we need? Is true love the ultimate v This book left me gasping for air and swimming in emotions. Asha Bandeleis an incredibly gifted writer, and this novel is the journey of the heart, all the while struggling with her head, with her friends and family and practical awareness of the bleak reality of her love and her marriage. I felt as though she had ripped her beating heart right out of her chest and made me take a bite. The book raises such questions as humans have always wrestled: Is love all we need? Is true love the ultimate virtue? Does the love we give and receive make every sacrifice worth it? For me, I also wondered about the nature of love vs. reason and wondered why some people are so willing to abandon so much of their reason and lives to experience it, and I questioned if I would ever feel so deeply and be able to give of myself so fully. It is as gorgeous as it is thought-provoking, and Bandele is masterful a writer, brutally honest and gifted. This book is an indisputable masterpiece. When I finished it, I almost immediately retread it, for I'd grown to crave that rush it gave me. However, after the second ride on the tsunami of feelings, I knew I would never be able to read it again.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eva Leger

    This is one I'd give 2 and 1/2 stars to if I had the option. I don't think I've ever read a book written more beautifully than this. She has great talent when it comes to writing and that much is obvious on the very first page. But I don't like her. At all. Not even a little bit. Most of the book I was able to understand and sympathize and whatnot while there were pieces, major pieces for me, that really bothered me. That bothered me to no end really. When Bendele talked about Rashid being locke This is one I'd give 2 and 1/2 stars to if I had the option. I don't think I've ever read a book written more beautifully than this. She has great talent when it comes to writing and that much is obvious on the very first page. But I don't like her. At all. Not even a little bit. Most of the book I was able to understand and sympathize and whatnot while there were pieces, major pieces for me, that really bothered me. That bothered me to no end really. When Bendele talked about Rashid being locked up she seemed to fault the prison. Um, that's what we do with murderers here. If this man, or any other human had killed MY son, I'd want him locked up and I think there's a decent chance that if someone came along and snuffed the life from Bendele's little girl- she's feel the same way. Yet she wrote as if Rashid was just plucked off the street one day and charged with a murder he didn't commit. He commited murder! I'm don't mean to say he isn't deserving of love or anything else. From what I learned of him in the book he seems like a "decent" guy. (That was kind of hard to write being that he killed someone but it's how I feel.) But since he did in fact take the life of another human, he has to deal with the consequences. Like waiting for conjugal visits, no peace and quiet in the visiting room, etc. I'm also willing to bet the victims mother hasn't had a bit of peace and quiet since her son was killed- EVER. That bothered me to know end. Maybe, hopefully, I took it wrong but that's the way her writing seemed to me on that aspect of the book. The abortion.....what to say about this. As far as I know, and I think I know, being pro0life does NOT mean having the government decide when I start my family. That's basically what Bendele said. Now, if she has to work through her grief and justify an abortion in her own mind that's all good and fine. But I happen to be pro-life and I have a daughter. I chose when to get pregnant and when to start my family. Not the government or anyone else for that matter. I was CAREFUL until I was ready. Excluding certain extreme instance where the woman has no choice in the matter, there is BIRTH CONTROL. Take advantage of it for God's sake! So, in Bendele's eyes apparently, being okay with abortion is having the "right" to start your family when you choose. The pro-lifers apparently do not have this option. That's a load of horseshit and I think she's smart enough to know it. Maybe in her grief- that's a whole other thing there- she hops up on a table pregnant, hops off not pregnant a little while later, then actually tells Rashid that if it happens again she'll have it! Freaking awesome if you ask me. Um, why did we just kill the baby again then Asha? I don't know. For the most part she gave a great look into what it's like to stick with your man through his bid. On the other hand, she's not the most likable person in the world. (For all the people who are dying to start a "fight" with me about my feelings- the fact that I don't like her has nothing to do with her being pro-choice. I have family members and friends who are pro-choice.) I am looking forward to reading her novel and I may even read her other non-fiction book, the one about Nisa. Not sure yet though.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Eva

    I sat in the park reading this and by the end I was a blubbering emotional mess. It's so raw, emphasizing the power of love to help two people grow and fly beyond prison bars, while remaining grounded in the loneliness, despair, and difficulties. The last few pages had me sobbing because it was just too powerful. You really feel it with her, the slowly beginning to trust, and then the hope, and then the despair. It just killed me. The way all the prisoners would tell their wives that they would I sat in the park reading this and by the end I was a blubbering emotional mess. It's so raw, emphasizing the power of love to help two people grow and fly beyond prison bars, while remaining grounded in the loneliness, despair, and difficulties. The last few pages had me sobbing because it was just too powerful. You really feel it with her, the slowly beginning to trust, and then the hope, and then the despair. It just killed me. The way all the prisoners would tell their wives that they would be home in one minute- not two, three, ten, fifteen. But one. And the way she picked that up. Her paragraph of prayer to all the gods in the world. "can you see me? who can see me? Can you hear me, who can hear me? Who's willing to come bargain with the prisoner's wife?" And the way he told her, "If I am killed trying to get to you, it would be the most noble death I could die." I started crying in the beginning, when he told her exactly what kind of man she deserved, and then ended by saying that was him. I didn't finish crying until two hours later; the tourists in the park had completely changed, and I felt like my heart had been torn into a million pieces by her journey and still somehow emerged with her realization that "It made me think I was blessed. To want someone like that. To be wanted by someone like that." Basically, I cannot even.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Maya B

    An interesting look at what its like to love someone in prison. I always wondered how someone could love someone that long. this book definitely answered some of those questions. it feels like this book needs a followup. I struggled with the fact of was this love, sympathy, or empathy. I closed this book wondering how many relationships survive when that person is released from prison. I liked the reader's guide that followed the story

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gabbie

    Over the weekend Jamaica had a little hurricane scare, or rather a big hurricane scare since at one point it did blow up to a Category 5, fortunately for us (unfortunately for Haiti) the worst was diverted and we only suffered tropical storm conditions. However, due to the preparation required for the impending storm Jamaica was essentially on lockdown for Monday. This meant that I had some unexpected time in my hand and so in between studying, working on an assignment, and checking in with work Over the weekend Jamaica had a little hurricane scare, or rather a big hurricane scare since at one point it did blow up to a Category 5, fortunately for us (unfortunately for Haiti) the worst was diverted and we only suffered tropical storm conditions. However, due to the preparation required for the impending storm Jamaica was essentially on lockdown for Monday. This meant that I had some unexpected time in my hand and so in between studying, working on an assignment, and checking in with work I was able to check out a book I've had on my shelf for a while but had just never got around to reading, The Prisoner's Wife by Asha Bandele. Her memoir tells of her experience meeting, befriending, falling in love with, and marrying a man who is in jail for 20 years to life on the charge of second degree murder. She meets him while volunteering at the prison and they strike up a friendship which eventually blossoms into more. Asha’s words weave together a non-traditional love story that is a reality for many. Her Manhattan upbringing with it’s private schools and ballet lessons prepared her for an idyllic life, however the taint of repeated sexual abuse left her scarred and traumatised. Rashid, trapped behind his bars was the one who helped her to find freedom. First published in 1999 Asha expresses the challenges faced by those who have loved ones in prison, the indignity they sometimes have to go through to have some semblance of normalcy. Almost 20 years later, Kyle Abraham worked with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on a three-part modern dance series exploring the impact of prison on families showing that the issue is one that isn’t going anywhere. (The Marshall Project) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enmRH... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZJIk... Through Asha’s words you fall in love with Rashid, and their love story; a contrary feeling since we’re predisposed to hate murderers. The book toys with your emotions as you read through Asha’s frank way of telling it as it is, of going it on her own, not because her partner wants to be absent, but because he doesn’t have a choice.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rita Reinhardt

    This is the first book I’ve attempted to read in one sitting! Whoa! Asha Bandele is definitely a poet first, and a writer second! She takes us deep inside the bowels of a love story...the place we fear to bring up in daily conversations, but yet know exist. The unions we gossip about, as we attempt to be supportive to our friends. The incredible journeys that every woman is curious of taking, but finds it extremely difficult to let go and let love. The place in which we can experience a piece of This is the first book I’ve attempted to read in one sitting! Whoa! Asha Bandele is definitely a poet first, and a writer second! She takes us deep inside the bowels of a love story...the place we fear to bring up in daily conversations, but yet know exist. The unions we gossip about, as we attempt to be supportive to our friends. The incredible journeys that every woman is curious of taking, but finds it extremely difficult to let go and let love. The place in which we can experience a piece of heaven while going through hell. A place only made for the strong! I enjoyed the overall story told, however there were times when the storyline seemed a bit scattered. There were also points that were not clearly defined or pieces seemed to be missing, thus the reason for four stars. When younger, our momma's read us stories that came equipped with princesses and love, but this is not the tale of Princess Diana or Princess Kate. This is a "real" love story...filled with tears, crime and forgiveness. I found myself caught up in Rashid’s patience and Asha’s emotions! The realness and stillness of each character was incredible, and shows readers how "everything that glitters ain't gold," but sometimes we need to admire the "shiny stuff." This is a great read and I recommend this book to every person who believes in the audacity to love.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Well, this was refreshing!This memoir was very honest, very intense, and very realistic. I feel that Asha is very complex, she is hard to deal with sometimes. I often felt for Rashid for having to deal with prison time and her issues as well! And then comes the hard part of feeling anything for this couple and their trials knowing that there is a widow suffering alone because of this man... and while they complain about lack of freedom, not being able to be together, not being allowed to be inti Well, this was refreshing!This memoir was very honest, very intense, and very realistic. I feel that Asha is very complex, she is hard to deal with sometimes. I often felt for Rashid for having to deal with prison time and her issues as well! And then comes the hard part of feeling anything for this couple and their trials knowing that there is a widow suffering alone because of this man... and while they complain about lack of freedom, not being able to be together, not being allowed to be intimate, etc. This widow has nothing. Her life is forever changed because of Rashid's actions and Asha makes a strong case for why their story is important, but my heart was stubborn. Inmates don't get a lot of sympathy for me, for any reason, reformed or not. Killing someone while your life gets to continue is something I can't make sense of. Anyhow, I tried to disengage from that and focus on the love story, which is beautiful at times and stressful most of the time. Again, there were moments when I read parts aloud to my husband and we both were like, "this chick is so strange". But there were other moments when I could appreciate her honesty, her life, her struggles, and more importantly, her love for this man who is doing time behind bars.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Christina

    When I first began this book, I really wasn't impressed by the obvious poetic hyperboles that bandele was using to "beat-a-dead-horse". As I continued to read the book, I really began to enjoy her descriptiveness and passion which allowed me to truly hear bandele's voice. Sometimes her descriptiveness was overused and overdone, but she really had a way of expressing certain concepts in a new and interesting way. I appreciated her honesty to tell all the grit and glam of her journey to loving an When I first began this book, I really wasn't impressed by the obvious poetic hyperboles that bandele was using to "beat-a-dead-horse". As I continued to read the book, I really began to enjoy her descriptiveness and passion which allowed me to truly hear bandele's voice. Sometimes her descriptiveness was overused and overdone, but she really had a way of expressing certain concepts in a new and interesting way. I appreciated her honesty to tell all the grit and glam of her journey to loving an imprisoned man, overcoming victimhood, and becoming an acclaimed poet the world over. I was left not really believing this story as some deep love epic, but I appreciated its reach.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ameer

    Excellent idea of a story but, executed in an ordinary fashion. The plot was probably lost in translation. Asha to me was the real prisoner of life having endured abuse and miserable lifestyle, she found in a real life prisoner some freedom and strength. She found the spice & the purpose her life always lacked. Rashid on the other hand is the prisoner who enjoyed more freedom "visitors & married life" between the bars of the prison. One of the best parts of the book was the graphic details of the Excellent idea of a story but, executed in an ordinary fashion. The plot was probably lost in translation. Asha to me was the real prisoner of life having endured abuse and miserable lifestyle, she found in a real life prisoner some freedom and strength. She found the spice & the purpose her life always lacked. Rashid on the other hand is the prisoner who enjoyed more freedom "visitors & married life" between the bars of the prison. One of the best parts of the book was the graphic details of the abortion experience. This was not a love story in my books despite the writer's persistence.

  12. 4 out of 5

    SunnyD

    an interesting look into the mind of a woman who fell in love with and married a man in jail. i always wondered about these women. bandele makes the story human, interesting, and thought-provoking. a lot more than i expected. it is a love story, as well as a quasi-memoir. i probably never would have read if it hadn't been a book club selection. i'm glad i did.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    I did not finish the book because the author's style was boring. ILL

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I sought this book after hearing the author speak at a BLM related event. The power and richness of her words and analysis were crystal clear and pregnant with lived and learned wisdom. When I picked up this book, I had not anticipated it to be a pure love story. bandele exposes her insides, raw, wounded, yearning, lost, found in this memoir. Her unlikely relationship with her lover, soul mate, husband is the balm that brings healing to her pain from childhood abuse and rediscovery of self. It re I sought this book after hearing the author speak at a BLM related event. The power and richness of her words and analysis were crystal clear and pregnant with lived and learned wisdom. When I picked up this book, I had not anticipated it to be a pure love story. bandele exposes her insides, raw, wounded, yearning, lost, found in this memoir. Her unlikely relationship with her lover, soul mate, husband is the balm that brings healing to her pain from childhood abuse and rediscovery of self. It reads like the unfolding of insight from intensive therapy. She captures the intrinsic cellular sensorium, pain, emotions, joyous and tragedy and loneliness of love and relationship while apart and through prison bars in this journal that twisted my insides in a knot from bearing witness. It's hard to not to question the viability of such a relationship and her idealization of her lover -- through a long distance, even desperate lens. Is it possible that this man doesn't carry deep rooted trauma not only of adverse childhood experiences....but also the trauma and violence of being incarcerated and in for life? That is not an experience that one's psychology can easily cope with or reconcile without a great deal of risk and or lifelong work in the event that he gets released. Can such relationships survive the realities of day to day life in normalcy? Who knows? Maybe this is just about living in the moment.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tameisha

    I really dislike this book So this book was chosen for a book club pick by one of our members. I honestly didn't know what to expect from this author. While reading the book, I wanted to stop reading it and just pay the 3.00 dollar fee of not finishing a book but I pushed thru. The whole I was reading the book I was asking myself, who is she talking to? Is she talking to us or herself? This book felt like she was having a conversation with herself trying to convince herself she was really in love I really dislike this book So this book was chosen for a book club pick by one of our members. I honestly didn't know what to expect from this author. While reading the book, I wanted to stop reading it and just pay the 3.00 dollar fee of not finishing a book but I pushed thru. The whole I was reading the book I was asking myself, who is she talking to? Is she talking to us or herself? This book felt like she was having a conversation with herself trying to convince herself she was really in love. And the ending? Who do you not know that was going to happen? How do you play with a person's feelings like?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nakia

    With this being my 2nd time with this story, I had a completely different perspective. I believe that asha is a terrific writer, but I found it hard to appreciate her love story as much as I did the first time around, mainly because it seemed that she wanted people to sympathize with the punishments of prisoners. Sorry, it ain't happening. If you do the crime, you do the time. And if you fall in love with someone in prison, you must suffer along with them. I still loved her language and I'm looki With this being my 2nd time with this story, I had a completely different perspective. I believe that asha is a terrific writer, but I found it hard to appreciate her love story as much as I did the first time around, mainly because it seemed that she wanted people to sympathize with the punishments of prisoners. Sorry, it ain't happening. If you do the crime, you do the time. And if you fall in love with someone in prison, you must suffer along with them. I still loved her language and I'm looking forward to reading her other books.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    This is hard to rate, I really like the writing, the story too is engaging however I do not agree with the writer's point of view.... how do you rate that? Review coming soon. http://maryokekereviews.blogspot.com.... This is hard to rate, I really like the writing, the story too is engaging however I do not agree with the writer's point of view.... how do you rate that? Review coming soon. http://maryokekereviews.blogspot.com....

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aisha

    3.5 stars. Much more than I expected. Wasn’t sure I liked it in the beginning but it picked up as it went on. You can tell that she writes poetry by the way she wrote this. Interesting and would recommend to certain people.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Holloway

    I started to read this book in an effort to engage my sympathetic/empathetic capacities. I spend a lot of time in academic materials but they can be cold and clinical. And when 90% of your reading is cold and clinical you become cold and clinical. I got a lot more than I bargained for in this text. This memoir is heartwrenching and beautiful. Primarily, this is a love story. But it is not this romanitic story of a dutiful wife loving and holding her head up with the misogynistic dignity of Black I started to read this book in an effort to engage my sympathetic/empathetic capacities. I spend a lot of time in academic materials but they can be cold and clinical. And when 90% of your reading is cold and clinical you become cold and clinical. I got a lot more than I bargained for in this text. This memoir is heartwrenching and beautiful. Primarily, this is a love story. But it is not this romanitic story of a dutiful wife loving and holding her head up with the misogynistic dignity of Black respectability. This love story is raw and diffcult. As much as bandele details her love for her husband Rashid. She also peels back layers of trauma, mental health struggles, fear, doubt, loneliness and just being plain tired mixed with the love they share pinned in by prison regulations and infrastructure. This is not a fairy tale. It is a struggle and it is the most beautiful and sustaining thing in their lives. Its challenge to our notions of what it means to love, of who is worth of love, and what obligations love demands of us. As such there are places in the text where it feels easy to call bandele selfish, ungrateful or mean as she asserts and advocates for her needs, as she struggles with her trauma and loneliness. Its in these moments the reader should consider the legitimacy of the standard by which they are judging bandele. bandele’s lover and later husband Rashid is also worth mentioning as I feel he serves as a good example of the redemptive possibilities for men. It is not that Rashid is without fault or even innocent of his crime. Rashid is earnest about his own self improvement and earnest about loving bandele irrespective of disagreement (sometimes on foundational things), her struggles with mental health and past trauma, and his own ego. In addition to writing a love story bandele’s first hand accounts of prison reinforces the notion that the only ethical position of prison is its abolition. Those familar with Orlando Patterson’s text Slavery and Social Death or discourse of social dealth in general will see the continual process of dehumanization specifically in the way prisoner are separated from one’s lineage. In terms of format I felt that bandele presented this memoir beautifully. It’s narrative is conversational interspersed with asides and emphasized passages. It almost if bandale has provided you with her journal and is sitting beside you point to particular places to expound. It is intimate and lovely.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Leighton

    A memoir by one of the founders of Black Lives Matters revealing in intimate detail her experience falling in love with and eventually marrying a man she met at a prison where she was volunteering to read her poetry. This is an achingly beautiful portrait of falling in love with a man, Rashid, whom she comes to know intimately emotionally - with whom she is able to share things about her life, about the abuse she suffered as a young girl, about her hopes and dreams that she has never ever shared A memoir by one of the founders of Black Lives Matters revealing in intimate detail her experience falling in love with and eventually marrying a man she met at a prison where she was volunteering to read her poetry. This is an achingly beautiful portrait of falling in love with a man, Rashid, whom she comes to know intimately emotionally - with whom she is able to share things about her life, about the abuse she suffered as a young girl, about her hopes and dreams that she has never ever shared with anyone, even really herself, years before she is able to know him intimately physically. Although the memoir focuses on their personal relationship, and necessarily more on her perception of their relationship, Bandele also reveals much about the justice system in the US and what it does to the minds and bodies of our young men and women and to the communities - disproportionately black - from which these young men are wrenched. She was surprised by the way in which her treatment was changed as her relationship to not only Rashid, but to the prison changed "How I got treated by the police had also changed; I was no longer a volunteer. I was a prisoner's lover now, his woman, his partner. Being a volunteer afforded me a tiny measure of courtesy, but being a lover, a girlfriend, afforded me mostly hostility and suspicion. " Bandele also reflects on years of repeated abuse as a young girl, and how Rashid is the one who helps her see her early sexual relations with men as abuse. She had, as all too many young girls, begun to blame herself. He repeated to her, "you were a child." Yet even his love and patience doesn't ease all the pain, and Bandele reveals all the difficulties of recovering from a lifetime of abuse. Rashid also lived a life of abuse as a child, leaving him as an adult with physical and emotional scars. He remembers once, as a child, drinking turpentine. "Turpentine? Yeah. Better to be dead. Know what I mean? You tried to kill yourself? I don't know about all that. I just didn't want to get a beating. There's a difference between wanting to die and not wanting to live." Doesn't get much more powerful than that.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Claudyne Vielot

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I hate this book. asha bandele is an amazing writer. To call her an amazing writer is an understatement. This book took me with her, to prison, about her daily life, to her doubts. It made me feel as though I was in the room with asha and Rashid for every caress, every phone call and every argument. I had to close the book and remind myself that I was not on a prison van or in a trailer. I am rarely so transported and deeply involved in a book. The Prisoner's Wife is truly a love story, as asha I hate this book. asha bandele is an amazing writer. To call her an amazing writer is an understatement. This book took me with her, to prison, about her daily life, to her doubts. It made me feel as though I was in the room with asha and Rashid for every caress, every phone call and every argument. I had to close the book and remind myself that I was not on a prison van or in a trailer. I am rarely so transported and deeply involved in a book. The Prisoner's Wife is truly a love story, as asha writes. "This is a love story." Only an all-consuming, passionate and devoted love could span a prison sentence and the numerous indignities that occurred. However, as much as I appreciate asha's devotion to her spouse, I can't help but feel so very sorry for Rashid. I don't believe he was ever truly in prison until he met asha. It was not until he met a woman he had an affinity with, physically, spiritually and intellectually, but could not build a traditional home with, the he truly felt the weight of his 20 years to life prison sentence. Rashid helped asha sort through her trauma, loved her intimately but without coitus, finally married her and realized the sexual nature of their relationship, then suffered through her abortion of their child. He was not able to bear witness to her life on a daily basis, as much as he had finally found a woman he would want to spend the rest of his life with. He has truly been cut off for the world and the joys it possesses. Until unadulterated joy and true love are on the other side of the Plexiglass, no one is truly in jail. This piece of literature ripped my beating heart from my chest and I've been through the ringer with it. I hate this book, but I have nothing but admiration for asha for writing it, and to Rashid for inspiring it. This was a love story, that much is true.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Florine

    It's such a beautifully written love story. Asha Bandele is a poet. The author describes her falling in love, the conjugal visits and the pain and difficulties to be away from one another. But it also goes beyond that, it's an introspection on her own life and an honest portrait of the choices she has to make. When she falls in love, it unlocks her past, and she is brutally honest about it - (view spoiler)[ her descriptions of the abuse are raw, tough and gut wrenching. When she gets pregnant, she It's such a beautifully written love story. Asha Bandele is a poet. The author describes her falling in love, the conjugal visits and the pain and difficulties to be away from one another. But it also goes beyond that, it's an introspection on her own life and an honest portrait of the choices she has to make. When she falls in love, it unlocks her past, and she is brutally honest about it - (view spoiler)[ her descriptions of the abuse are raw, tough and gut wrenching. When she gets pregnant, she does make a choice and has to live with it (hide spoiler)] . At no point she denies that her husband has committed a murder, and that he's in prison for a reason - but it doesn't change the fact that she fell in love with him, and that the absence is unbearable. I did feel like she was honest with her natural instincts of wanting to be with him. I didn't question her choices, because this book is simply very human. Having said that, I listened to the audio (fantastic), and it may give a different vibe than the book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Phenomenol writing. Even 20 years later, this story resonates. I am hesitant to read about bandele now because i know they didnt get a happy ending and that breaks my heart. I loved her writing and will read more of it. A few things to note..i did get a little frustrated with the "i feel so lonely" bit bc i imagine Rashid ALSO felt lonely and isolated and he had to feel that without the freedom of being out that she did. She complained about having to leave but the thing is..she GETS to leave. I Phenomenol writing. Even 20 years later, this story resonates. I am hesitant to read about bandele now because i know they didnt get a happy ending and that breaks my heart. I loved her writing and will read more of it. A few things to note..i did get a little frustrated with the "i feel so lonely" bit bc i imagine Rashid ALSO felt lonely and isolated and he had to feel that without the freedom of being out that she did. She complained about having to leave but the thing is..she GETS to leave. I reconciled this in my heart later when she explained this is HER story, not his and if he wrote a book he might tell a different story. I am SURE thats true. And so i had to remember she is being open amd vulnerable and honest and who am i to criticize that? I heard about this book from her interview on DearSugarRadio with Cheryl Strayed and was fascinated by it. Anything Cheryl recommends, I tend to respect unequivocally.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Maya Mitchell

    A powerful & beautifully descriptive read. I must admit, it took me awhile to get into the flow of the story & become emotionally connected to the story. However, the poetic undertones in each chapter & illustrative narrative got me hooked once I committed to reading the book in its entirety. At first, I thought the story to be one solely about a couple in love while facing grave adversity. But then I started to detect various truths within the text; the most prominent being self love & healing! A powerful & beautifully descriptive read. I must admit, it took me awhile to get into the flow of the story & become emotionally connected to the story. However, the poetic undertones in each chapter & illustrative narrative got me hooked once I committed to reading the book in its entirety. At first, I thought the story to be one solely about a couple in love while facing grave adversity. But then I started to detect various truths within the text; the most prominent being self love & healing! What a powerful message portrayed through such incredible words. Loved it & would highly recommend.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    Bandele offers an emotional glimpse into the lives of two people romantically involved within the constraints of prison walls, both physically and emotionally present. Her writing glides readers through the memoir, touching feelings and navigating challenges faced in such an unusual yet all too common set of circumstances. She left this reader feeling familiar with the couple, hoping they will prevail. I'm looking forward to reading other books she's written.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Danni Green

    This was a beautiful, heart-wrenching read. I powered right through it in under a day, unable to put it down. It is the story of a woman who falls in love with a man who is in prison, and she's crafted a powerful memoir about that experience. I cried more than a few times while reading it. cw: racism, prison abuse, child sexual abuse.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mary Blye Kramer

    The writing is lovely, poetic and if I liked poetry, I might have liked this book better, but I don’t and I didn’t. The story is about a woman falling in love and marrying a prisoner but the underlying theme is one of sexual abuse and bulimia and I think I’ve just read 100 too many memoirs about those topics...

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nyla Moore

    This is a beautifully written unconventional love story. It’s not a fairy tale love. But it is real and deep and full. I believe we all aspire to love and be loved like these two love one another. I enjoyed the poetic nature of her writing. However, the story is flat and unclimactic.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Bandele's prose is poetic and sensual. The subject matter is controversial, but certainly causes the reader to stop and reconsider their own biases and preconceived notions of incarceration, marriage and how the two combine.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Laquitta

    It's a story that's raw, heartfelt and emotional. Asha takes us through her life of hardships, what it's like to be a prisoner's wife and dealing with prison conditions.

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