- Copertina flessibile: 440 pagine
- Editore: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edizione (26 aprile 2017)
- Lingua: Inglese
- ISBN-10: 1541024494
- ISBN-13: 978-1541024496
- Peso di spedizione: 739 g
Rebel Hell: Disabled Vegan Goes to Prison (Inglese) Copertina flessibile – 26 apr 2017
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Jan Smitowicz resides in California’s wondrous North Coast region with his wife/publicist Andria and their rescued companion animals. They are joyous childfree vegans. Smitowicz has published two novels, Orange Rain and Redwood Falls. He believes fiction and narrative nonfiction still have the power to change lives--and thereby change the world.
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You are about to read [or so the book’s author hopes] an extraordinary memoir by an extraordinary man. First, I’d like to briefly relay how I came to know Jan Smitowicz.
In my role as Distinguished Professor and Chair of Psychology at Oakland University [Rochester, Michigan], I have for the past several years organized an international two-day conference that brings together smart people from around the world to talk about a broad and unsettled area of work within my own field of evolutionary psychology. These conferences have featured the brightest minds in the social, behavioral, and life sciences, but also some of the most gifted fiction and non-fiction writers, both within and outside of academia. Our past conferences include “The Evolution of Violence,” “The Evolution of Sexuality,” and “The Evolution of Morality.” Our most recent conference, held in the spring of 2016, addressed “The Evolution of Psychopathology.” By the fall of 2015 I had locked in most of our panelists, but had yet to find a novelist that fit well with the conference theme, a novelist whose work incorporated elements of psychopathology.
Over the past several years I have become deeply interested in anti-natalism. In 2010, I read David Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence and, after some soul-searching, found his arguments deeply convincing and equally unsettling. Fast forward a few years to the fall of 2015. I stumbled upon a podcast featuring an interview with David Benatar. This particular episode featured three interviewees, each of whom was struggling in their own medium with issues of anti-natalism. David Benatar provided an academic philosopher’s perspective. The Norwegian rapper Mistro provided a musician’s perspective on how one might address issues of anti-natalism. And then there was Jan. The podcast hosts had invited him on to offer a novelist’s perspective—how might one incorporate social justice concerns, including anti-natalism, into the plot and characters of a novel?
Jan had recently published his debut novel Orange Rain. I understood from the interview that Jan incorporated anti-natalist ideas into the characters and plot in a book that sounded fascinating. I liked Jan’s brutally honest but deeply empathic responses to the interviewers’ questions. Within a few days I had purchased and read the novel. And what a novel! I knew Jan would be an ideal panelist for our upcoming conference—a novelist whose work incorporated themes of psychopathology into the plot and characters.
Plus, I liked his edginess. Academics need more edginess in their lives—especially academics that attend fancy conferences.
I reached out to Jan and extended an invite. He leapt at the chance to join us, and I am so grateful for it: Jan’s uniquely stylized perspective as a panelist helped make this one of our most enjoyable and stimulating conferences; moreover, his talk on anti-natalism and how he incorporates such important themes into his writing was a highlight of the conference!
When he visited Oakland University, Jan was adamant: If I liked Orange Rain, I’d really enjoy his prison memoir-in-progress. I was pleasantly surprised when he asked me to write the Foreword. Which you—Dear Reader, as Jan would say—are now [presumably] reading. After receiving the “Januscript,” I devoured it in just a couple days. Not out of obligation, either—I simply couldn’t put the book down!
It soon became clear that Rebel Hell: Disabled Vegan Goes to Prison is a stunning masterpiece. The content is certainly remarkable—a vegan, disabled young man’s harrowing experiences during a two-year imprisonment in Illinois for trafficking marijuana. Also remarkable—in fact, singularly unique among the memoirs I have read—is Jan’s unequaled stylistic panache; his beautifully crafted, outrageously candid, deeply empathic, and often uproariously funny narrative voice. He reveals the immense trauma of life in the “Prison Vortex” with incredible clarity. Even more substantial, however, is how he managed to engender the sense that I now know this man on a thorough and deeply personal level. I suffered when he suffered. Feared when he feared. And I was overjoyed when he triumphed.
Despite the dreadful circumstances, Jan somehow unearths humor in the very darkest places—and does so throughout. On many occasions, I found myself laughing right alongside him amid some of the most outrageously frustrating situations imaginable. His multifarious depictions of endless struggle against prison doctors hell-bent on decreasing or discontinuing his very necessary pain medications are equal parts hilarious and soul-withering. Oh—and then there are his disturbing, disgusting, but above all entertaining accounts of frequent physical-psychological degradation he was forced to endure with the . . . well, let’s just say the seedier aspects of prison life. Leaving the narration of those sordid details to the man who must forever live with them.
Rebel Hell: Disabled Vegan Goes to Prison is a memoir—a story—like no other.
Along with this, though, is the journey of the author as he navigates the "health care" system (somewhat naively at first, in my opinion, but you might well learn along with him just how little prison's company men and women truly care about inmates, with almost no regard as to the legitimacy of their disability), detox from pain medications, and immense emotional turmoil.
We also get to know the few inmates he is able to find solace with as well as interpersonal experiences with the likes of racists, sexists, and homophobes and his unwavering resolve to confront them even under threats of extended or higher security punishment.
Also, despite the dire circumstances, the author does manage to render many situations and conversations totally hilarious. I think many will also find humor in his rage-fueled rants against injustice (aka soapbox moments) and exchanges the author has with the reader and *himself* through various unique writing techniques.
This is a timely story with important messages and themes that should and really NEEDS to be read and shared and talked about!
Without hesitation, he told me. And now, over two years later, that complete story unfolds in Jan’s memoir Rebel Hell: Disabled Vegan Goes to Prison.
His story reads like a fast-paced novel as he enters into the Illinois prison system, serving time(after being arrested following an illegal search and seizure) for transporting quarter of a million dollars worth of medical grade marijuana across the country.
Jan’s writing style is over the top raw and vulnerable, not to mention unsettling at times, with shall we say colorful language throughout.
But, that didn’t keep me from laughing out loud often in response to his brilliantly sarcastic wit.
Throughout this great work, we are treated to an in-depth education on the sheer magnitude of the US prison system. Although, as a white man, Jan is fully understanding of his relative advantage in comparison to the plight of people of color due to mass incarceration.
As a vegan, Jan smashes the stereotype that those involved in the animal rights movement care nothing about the suffering of human beings. His passion for seeing all animals free of oppression has not blocked his tremendous empathy for all.
His circle of compassion is wide and his heart immense.
To write a memoir at such a young age, may seem odd to some. But, I believe had he waited until an ‘acceptable’ age to begin, it would take several books to contain the many adventures I suspect are still to come.
I cannot stress it strongly enough. Get your hands on Rebel Hell. It’s one of the most compelling works I’ve read in a long time.
And once you’re done, check out Jan’s other books, Orange Rain: A Revenge Novel, Redwood Falls, and Kiss Me Like You Mean It: A True Post-Katrina New Orleans Story.
Smitowicz writes of his two year trek through the maze of the U.S. prison system in a way that will leave you feeling as he did therein: enraged, frustrated, and bemused. Perhaps knowing how bleak the textual landscape is, the author peppers bits of acerbic humor throughout as a kind of salve to the sometimes heavy narrative. A further salve is offered via the innovative ways with which the author plays with traditional narrative forms, making the book’s style as unconventional as the author.
Written by a self-declared activist against all forms of oppression, Rebel Hell is more than just a memoir. Rather, the author uses the book to draw attention to racial inequality and other human rights violations (i.e. the right to adequate healthcare) that are endemic to the U.S. “justice” system. Rebel Hell is not just about one man’s experiences; it provides a peak into a fundamentally flawed and unjust industry that is kept aloft by a failed War on Drugs and that enforces the unrelenting degradation of inmates. Anyone who still believes that the prison industrial complex cares a lick about rehabilitation should read this book. On that note, another literary reference is apropos: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno.
But fear not, for the book (and the system, to an extent) is not all drear hopelessness. To wit, the author managed to negotiate a four-year plea deal, of which he served half; however, the mind-boggling details of this transaction further exemplify the bizarre, capricious nature of the penal system, and Smitowicz is honest in concluding that not everyone has the privilege to take the path he was offered.
In sum, Jan Smitowicz’s Rebel Hell—Disabled Vegan Goes to Prison: A Memoir will keep you turning pages in wonder of what will happen next, of what he’ll say next, and of what bureaucratic absurdity will manifest next. And all of this is underpinned by a hope that you, his “Dear Reader,” will take action next.
(Full disclosure: The author provided me with an advanced copy for review.)