Review: The Love Prison Made and Unmade

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Review for "The Love Prison Made and Unmade" by Ebony Roberts (2019)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Curiosity drove me to this book, particularly after reading the author’s former partner, Shaka Senghor’s book “Writing My Wrongs.” From Senghor, we learn the story of a troubled young Black man growing up in inner city Detroit in the 1980’s, eventually becoming a drug dealer to earn a living. At barely 19 years old, he turns to violence and ends up on the criminal end of a murder case. For his crime, Senghor earns himself a lengthy prison sentence. While on the inside, he begins to correspond with a brilliant young scholar by the name of Ebony. They fall in love through letters and visits, and continue their relationship for several years after Senghor is released.

“The Love that Prison Made” is Ebony’s side of the story, beginning from her childhood. After witnessing domestic abuse in her childhood, she tells her narrative of meeting Senghor behind bars and falling in love with him. The narrative continues after he is released, when all doesn’t go as planned and the couple is confronted with cold realities and real problems.

I really liked this. There is a lot of focus on the couple’s courtship through letters, which makes up most of this book. Although Senghor is not released until about 75% in, you immediately know early on that this pair is not going to make it. Although she is careful not to generalize about the fate of all prison relationships, I appreciate Ms. Roberts’ choice to be transparent about why her prison romance failed. All too often we hear about the ‘happily ever after’ and the happy couple life of inmates and persons on the outside. What about the people who do the same and it doesn’t work out perfectly? Hmm.

This story is also important from a social justice perspective. Due to the mass incarceration rates of Black people, the question becomes one of how to interact with these men and women. Large numbers of the prison population will eventually get out one day, and not only will they need employment and support, they will seek emotional attachments as well. What is to be expected? What is inevitable? These are questions to consider.

Four solid stars.

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4 thoughts on “Review: The Love Prison Made and Unmade”

  1. I didn’t know Ebony wrote a book! I’ve read Senghor’s and was very iffy about it. Mostly, I was left feeling anxious about the way he said he was rehabilitated and remorseful for the crime he committed, but then when someone approaches him and says he needs to kill or harm another prisoner, Senghor believes he can’t but hires someone else do it. It’s still a crime to have someone do your dirty work, and I just felt very uncomfortable with him trying to persuade readers he’s non-violent while hiring a hitman.

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    1. Yeah…I feel you. I was trying to keep my feelings about Senghor out of Ebony’s review, but I had MAJOR issues with him while reading his book as well. I don’t see him going back to prison, but I do feel as if he is still trying to minimize his role in hurting people–in prison and in the free world. In Ebony’s book there is even an incident in which she wants to visit him but he gets in trouble for beating a guard up and gets his visiting privileges denied. This is all kinda glossed over, like she’s talking about being mad about too much lettuce in a salad or something. Umm…ok.

      And in this book Senghor is no angel at all. I don’t want to give away everything, but he is definitely a manipulator and a serial liar and cheater, which Ebony lays pretty bare here. Like if he won’t acknowledge his ways, she will–you know?

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      1. I get you. Senghor came to a book store not too far from me to do a reading, and when I missed it, I was bummed. THEN I read his book and felt much better about having stayed home. Thanks for your recommendation. I’m going to add Ebony’s book based on your review. Thank you so much!

        Liked by 1 person

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