— Ceri London (@CeriLondon) January 14, 2014
“Consciousness leads to change”, is how I would sum up Bonita Fahy’s new book, “Guilty: The Inside Truth“, if I had to do it using only four words. Luckily, I have more words available to me. To begin, this is an emotional book. You laugh out loud, you cry, you sing, you dance. This book moves you. It touches your human soul profoundly. You are not left indifferent.
The book is about redemption, transformation, and rehabilitation. For redemption to come into play, one must be in need of a second chance. The protagonist, “Braylin Jean Falls”, is in dire need of a second chance to right past wrongs.
Secondly, transformation comes into play because given the circumstances facing the protagonist, it is humanly impossible to achieve. A higher power is needed. Divine intervention makes the transformation we see in the character and life of “Braylin Falls” posssible. Indeed, what we see in this book is nothing short of a miracle, a true “Rebirth” made possible by the power of God. Thus, we find our plot: Rebirth. Out of the old, something new is born again.
Thirdly, this is a story of rehabilitation. When someone goes to prison, if our prison system were functioning adequately, a majority of offenders would be rehabilitated. People who have “done the crime” and “done the time” would be able to return to society and make a contribution to society rather then be a burden, or worse, a menace to society. Sadly, that is not the case, as we see in this book.
Before I go further, understand that this is a true story that has been fictionalized to protect the identity of the innocent. Readers will be tempted to think they are simply reading a story, a tale, a crime story set in Milwaukee and the greater state of Wisconsin. Nothing could be further from the truth. Leave no doubt in your mind. The events in this book are very authentic, real and factual. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent. That bit of knowledge helps the reader to understand that what appears to be a well-researched book, is in fact, written from personal experience. This makes for a compelling, absorbing read.
The linguistic style is a brilliant call on the part of Author Bonita Fahy. Her language choice is the rhyme and the reason, the flow and the functionality of language in use. This functional English in the story, used for communicative purposes, comes to us from the African American urban setting of the streets of Milwaukee. Some linguists would call this African American Vernacular English (AAVE), others African American English (AAE), and still others might simply say, Black English (BE). I call it, in a word, “beautiful”, and I celebrate its use in this book.
This book is more powerful, more inspring, and definitely more motivating for its target audience, as a direct result of intentionally not following prescriptive rules of grammar. Teachers of English (like me) would refer to this as, Standard English. No, to use Standard English in this book would have been a mistake. Why?
The book would have lost all of its “fire” and its passion. The voices of the people you meet in this story would have been reduced to a style that simply does not exist in an urban environment that is predominantly African American. The readers of this book will appreciate how the language is able to convey culture, history, traditions, customs, and unwritten codes of conduct that make this story such a compelling read. It is almost as if a window is raised, and the reader is allowed a glimpse inside at something they normally have no opportunity to see, the daily lives of people trying to overcome difficult life situations.
What can be more difficult than having a monthly income of $628 dollars and the monthly rent you have to pay is $600 dollars? How do you survive under such conditions? Options are limited, and none of the choices are pretty. This economic hardship sets the whole plot into motion, everything that follows rests on the choices made at this critical moment in the story. You will enjoy watching how everything that follows can be traced back to this pivotal moment.
On another level, this book is social criticism at its most constructive. The author does not preach, does not hit you over the head with any ideology. She simply shows you the reality of the situation she faced, in all its crudeness, its harshness, and trusts that what you read will speak to your own sense of human dignity.
It is impossible to read this book without questioning our criminal justice system in its entirety. We can only conclude that we have a highly flawed, most imperfect system, and more needs to be done to improve it. This book makes a contribution in that area. It makes us, the readers of this book, think deeply about how we define basic human dignity for incarcerated people and their families. How do you maintain your role as a parent…behind bars? Difficult questions to consider, but a reality for many mothers and fathers who are incarcerated.
Finally, it is necessary to say that this book is not for everybody. As I said before, if you like your English spoken and written in Standard English, then stay away from this book. If you think you can handle a true African American wordsmith at her poetic best, this book is for you. You will enjoy this book. Let me give you some examples of brilliant prose:
1. Comparing Milwaukee to Vegas I knew I wasn’t in Kansas…
2. Everything was cracking…
3. If I had not of been hurting…
4. Dinner was off the chain…
Furthermore, if you work in the criminal justice system, the health-care industry, the social work career field, or for any reason have extended contact with the African American community who live in urban environments, then this book is a must-read. In this case, your education is not complete until you have read this book and discussed your own reactions with another human being.
But if you are under 18, this book is not for you. It includes profanity, drug and alcohol abuse, dysfunctional families, crime, dysfunctional criminal justice system, promiscuity, irresponsibility and a senseless murder. Wait until you are 18 to read this book, maintain your innocence as long as you can.
I choose to give the last words in this review to the author: (Quote) “Consciousness leads to change. Once we know the lesson we have an obligation to turn around and help someone else who may be struggling. Change is a process. For some of us the journey is a little longer. What matters is that we get there and make the necessary changes.” (end of quote)
— Thomas Jerome Baker (@profesortbaker) January 14, 2014
Excerpt: Chapter 1 (Guilty: The Inside Truth)
“Ma, the police are at the door for you,” announced one of my daughters. I instructed her to let them in. My mind started racing and my emotions spun out of control. This was it. I knew why the police were here. All I could do was cry as about twenty officers entered my home. As the waterfall of tears cascaded down my face, I was instructed to turn around. I was handcuffed and read my Miranda Rights.
I still hear the words in my head, “You are under arrest for the murder of Warren Ivy.” The words are still in my head ten years later. People never understood that Warren was my friend. They never really knew what happened on April 25, 2002. It is time I told it. It has to come out. Not just for me but for Warren. Let me start at the beginning of my nightmare…
Facebook: Guilty: The Inside Truth
Website: Change In Me
KKVV Christian Talk Radio
Radio Interview with Bonita Fahy