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A unique prison narrative that testifies to the power of books to transform a young man's life At the age of sixteen, R. Dwayne Betts-a good student from a lower- middle-class family-carjacked a man with a friend. He had never held a gun before, but within a matter of minutes he had committed six felonies. In Virginia, carjacking is a "certifiable" offense, meaning that Betts would be treated as an adult under state law. A bright young kid, he served his nine-year sentence as part of the adult population in some of the worst prisons in the state. A Question of Freedomchronicles 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 Freedomis 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.
R. Dwayne Betts is the program director for the D.C. Creative Writing Workshop; the founder of YoungMenRead, a book club for at-risk young men; and the national spokesperson for the Campaign for Juvenile Justice. A graduate of Warren Wilson College's MFA program for writers, Betts is the recipient of the Beatrice Hawley Award for his book of poetry, Shahid Reads His Own Palms, to be published in May 2010.