Why books like these matter

Dear friends,

Dozens of prisoners have been sent copies of I Am Troy Davis (you can gift a book to a prisoner by clicking here) and were invited to participate in the I Am Troy Davis Community Book Club. The response I have received has been overwhelming, with prison discussion groups of the book happening all over the country, including on death row in Texas, Alabama, and California.

One of the suggested discussion questions I sent to the prison book groups was:

“Are books like I Am Troy Davis useful for challenging/changing the system? Why or why not?”

Here are the responses to that question that I received from a group of readers incarcerated in Hughes unit, in Gatesville, TX:


From Mr. Charles McKinley 

It’s my firm opinion that YES books like this are PARAMOUNT to changing and challenging the system! The reasons being

1) it brings to the forefront facts, feelings and instances that normally may not get a full audience

2) it empowers those most able to effect change through educated challenging which is facilitated by the PEOPLE!

3) it gives you both sides of the coin and tells the full story without injustice to any party.

So many subtle things were explained clearly, concisely, and most importantly, in an easy-to-grasp fashion. I Am Troy Davis got to the meat and potatoes, minus a lot of technical jargon or unnecessarily complex terminology. The reader is found riveted in the most visceral fashion to the text and is not lost for a moment having to google a term or ponder contextual implications. Absolutely wonderful. That’s how you get attention.

To truly ignite the spark of CHANGE you must be able to identify, explain and assess the target; you must be able to formulate a plan of attack and method of execution of such plan; and there must be benchmarks to know if and when progress has been made toward the overarching goal. This book did so beautifully in eloquent and gripping simplicity. Thank you to Mr. Troy Davis and his family of warriors, as well as the authors. I stand at the ready to continue fighting. Saulte and Power to the People!


From David E. Davis

I believe that a by-product of being correctly educated is change; therefore books such as I Am Troy Davis, which highlight the innate injustices within the system being acted out towards certain designated groups in the society where it’s placed into operation, are extremely useful towards challenging/changing the system and its status-quo.

Before receiving the biography I Am Troy Davis I had an un-thorough outline of the actual struggle; although after I was done reading, I felt as if I now have an in-depth detailed description, which I can relate to, of not only what today’s struggles should be about, but also how to wage combat against the system, and how to conduct myself along the way. My consciousness has been totally elevated in many areas of the struggle.

The I Am Troy Davis story gives reference points to all those involved or contemplating involvement with the struggle. This book tempts anyone who’s a decent human being in possession of a conscience to enter the struggle on behalf of their fellow human beings. If we don’t stand for others, there’ll be no one left to stand for us, on the day injustice knocks on our door.

There are a select number of individuals who come to the point where they totally understand the struggle, the system we’re up against, and are able to correctly articulate both. Empowering books such as this bring these individuals out of the closet through allowing them to know there’s a place for them amongst those in opposition to the destructive system in operation throughout the world.

Books such as I Am Troy Davis with intertwining biographies such as Martina’s, written by Jen Marlowe, confirm that the abuses we’ve experienced at the hands of the state bureaucracy designed to preserve the system were not illusions nor us just crying wolf. The pictures painted by these books are mental reinforcement.

I conclude that: YES! Books like the one written by Ms. Marlowe, Martina and Troy Davis are extremely useful towards the dismantling and reformation of the destructive system in operation, to where it meets the needs of the environment and those who live within it.


From Kenneth Foster Jr:

It’s ABSOLUTELY useful due to what Howard Zinn said-

“History can help our struggles, if not conclusively, then at least suggestively.”

We always hear that the victors of war write the history. This is why we must continuously tell OUR OWN story so that what we have gone through is not erased in the sands of time.

Zinn also said that “Rebellion often starts as something cultural.” Rebellion being not just physically, but literary as well, because both are actions  that stand up to an injustice. One may say, “something cultural?” Yes, continuing–

“The death penalty itself is only one manifestation of the violence directed by the state against those whom it considers dispensable, either because they are poor, non-white, or part of a movement that threatens the existing structure of wealth and power.”

The underlined is a “culture” because culture is a collective of values, struggles, sense of survival, wisdom, beliefs, wants, needs, desires, good times and bad, all rolled up into one vehicle called culture.

Part of our culture is writers that stand out and stand up to injustice even when it’s not popular or safe. I’m sure Ms. Jen Marlowe could have made more fame and money writing a suspense-novel. But, she chose to be a part of history by telling a story that is detrimental to all of our lives, because if no person objected to wrongs, then they would last forever. Justice is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence.

Books like this remind us to what is REALLY going on, what we are blind to and what organized activity can do. For as Zinn said-

“A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think. When we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress.”

With us is where it begins, and with us (ie–people like Jen Marlowe, Troy Davis, Martina Davis-Correia, Lawrence Foster Sr, Campaign to End the Death Penalty) is where it (capital punishment) will end!






Filed under Criminal Justice, Death Penalty, Troy Davis

9 responses to “Why books like these matter

  1. Wynn M Chapman

    Hello Jen – this is such a great idea and I would like to send a copy to my friend and penpal in the Polunsky Unit, Gerald Marshall. I would like however to sound him out first as his own autobiography, released not so long ago, doesn’t appear to have sold so well and I’m not sure how he would feel. The reviews from other prisoners are very enlightening and touching to read. I’ll JPay Gerard and hope to order a book for him soon! If he says ‘No’ perhaps I could send a copy to someone of your choice – but I’m hoping for a ‘Yes’! xx



  2. julie guthrie

    These responses, from people society has thrown away, are mind-blowing and beautiful. Thanks, Jen.

  3. Pingback: A torch in the dark: prisoner responses to “I Am Troy Davis” | View from the donkey's saddle

  4. Thank you so much for this series of blog posts, seeing the responses from everyone is so moving. I am inspired by how many different people have access to read, discuss and learn from each other because of this book.

  5. Pingback: Reviews from the Row #5: The impact of a family’s love & support | View from the donkey's saddle

  6. Pingback: Reviews from the Row #6: We were with the Davis family when they lost Troy | View from the donkey's saddle

  7. Pingback: “Troy Davis’s struggle is also my struggle” | View from the donkey's saddle

  8. Pingback: An opportunity to be heard | View from the donkey's saddle

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