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The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robberby Joe Loya
Synopses & Reviews
A searing story about the painful climb one man must make from a life of crime to one filled with honor
Growing up in a devoutly religious family with a father who believed in firm discipline and who was also studying for a Protestant ministry, Joe Loya Jr. seemed a blessed child. When he was seven, however, his life was drastically altered when his mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
During the two years that led to her death, Joe's pious and studious father became more and more violent, brutally beating his two young sons. This contradiction haunted Joe for years until one day, at age sixteen, during a particularly severe beating, he finally retaliated and stabbed his father in the neck.
For Joe, this was the starting point of a life of crime: petty theft, forgery, fraud, and ultimately, bank robbery. When Joe was finally arrested after holding up his twenty-fourth bank, he was sent to prison, where he would serve seven years.
In prison, his criminal behavior only got worse, as he began to deal drugs, smuggle weapons, and even assault fellow prisoners, until he was placed in solitary confinement, the lowest of lows even for convicts. There, alone in his cell for two years, he was finally able to forgive his father, finding clarity, cultural insight, and redemption through writing.
During a soulful correspondence with acclaimed author Richard Rodriguez, Loya ultimately found that he wasn't alone in his struggle to discover his identity, and that anger is sometimes the doorway toward realizing one's self and one's purpose.
Although the images that propel an angry young man toward a life of crime may leave readers shuddering, the power of Joe Loya's incredible story will surely remind us that we must not lose hope that wayward sons and daughters may one day return home.
"In this well-written, insightful memoir, reformed bank robber Loya provides a searing account of the physical and emotional scars he received growing up in East Los Angeles. After his mother's death, both Loya and his younger brother suffered horrible beatings from their father, a Protestant minister. While Loya avoids blaming his eventual career as a criminal on his father's brutality, the resulting feelings of helplessness clearly played a major role in transforming a bookish nerd into a violent thug. Pushed beyond his limits, Loya finally takes drastic steps to protect himself. His rapid descent into a life of crime leads to a demeaning and grueling prison stretch. Loya does a masterful job of conveying the survivalist ethos he's forced to adopt while incarcerated. His gradual rejection of that code, nurtured and sustained by a pen-pal relationship with poet Richard Rodriguez, is a little less well-developed, and his ending the narrative shortly after his release leaves unanswered some of the thoughtful questions he raises about rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Nonetheless, many readers will find Loya's honesty and self-awareness gripping and will root for him to transcend his inner demons. Agent, Sam Stoloff. 5-city author tour. (Sept.) Forecast: Richard Rodriguez's foreword lends literary cachet, while a blurb from Frank McCourt is a plus. Loya already appears regularly on Court TV." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Joe Loya is an essayist and playwright, as well as a contributing editor with the Pacific News Service. His essays have appeared in several national newspapers and magazines, including the San Francisco Examiner, the Los Angeles Times, and El Andar magazine. He lives with his wife in the Bay Area.
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