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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Module 12: Hole in my Life

Module 12: Biography and Autobiography

Hole in my Life

Author: Jack Gantos

Book Summary:

   Jack Gantos in his autobiography, Hole in my Life, writes about his journey through a hard time in his life. He got involved in a drug smuggling operation and, although he was young and was slated to just get probation, was sent to jail. He always wanted to be a writer, but never considered any of his ideas pursuable. His time in jail though, while writing in his “journal:” the cramped spaces between the lines of an existing novel, allowed him to realize his writing potential. Although a hard time in his life, it became a turning point. After jail and college, he began writing children’s books.

APA Book Reference:
Gantos, J. (2002). Hole in my life. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

     This was a relatively short book, so it was a very quick read. I read it within the span of a few hours. I liked the book in terms of the writing about writing, but parts of it did get kind of boring. The chapters set on the boat were boring to me, but perhaps that’s because those were the truest parts of the book. Gantos was not just writing those chapters from memory; he kept a ship log, and it seems the passages were straight from that. Gantos also referenced many books and book characters that I was not familiar with, but I understand the device of comparing life to fiction as the author was interested in reading and writing at the time. I did enjoy this book though; it was short and to the point. It was about a bad time in the author’s life, but he did not dwell on the bad. He simply stated the facts.  
Professional Review: 

Gr. 8-up. Jack Gantos' riveting memoir of the 15 months he spent as a young man in federal prison for drug smuggling is more than a harrowing, scared-straight confession: it is a beautifully realized story about the making of a writer. As Gantos himself notes: "It [prison] is where I went from thinking about becoming a writer, to writing." His examination of the process--including his unsparing portrayal of his fears, failings, and false starts--is brilliant and breathtaking in its candor and authenticity. Particularly fascinating is his generous use of literary allusions to everything from Baudelaire to Billy Budd, which subtly yet richly dramatize how he evolved from a reader who became a character in the books he was reading to a writer and a character in his own life story. Gantos' spare narrative style and straightforward revelation of the truth have, together, a cumulative power that will capture not only a reader's attention but also empathy and imagination. This is great for every aspiring writer and also a wonderful biography for teens struggling to discover their deepest, truest selves.

Library Uses:
     This book could be used in a library writing workshop. Gantos describes how he writes and formats his journals, and this could be helpful to burgeoning writers. This book could also be paired with other “jail” literature (as the author refers to).

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