Did knowing (in some cases) and not knowing the crimes of the links influence how you felt about them? Why do you think you were able to see their humanity? And how did you feel about how Adjei-Brenyah showed the humanity of these characters? When it comes to your own biases about the carceral system, do you have any limits? Are there some crimes too heinous to consider a person’s humanity? What did you take from the novel about grief and forgiveness?
What should we ask Nana during our live conversation with him?
In many societies the incarcerated is no longer thought of as its members. We think of the carceral systems as a dumpster where we discard refuse. Until a family member got in trouble and landed in prison, I too was oblivious, even though a lot more of my people feed the beast. I visited him once and I swore to never set foot there again. I FELT dehumanized in the way I was "searched" and looked at before being allowed in.
All this to say, people who commit crimes are still human beings. They can be condemned for it, but we can't strip them of their humanity. What does that make us? Grief should be fully experienced to allow forgiveness to be granted and accepted. We tend to stifle unpleasant feelings and emotions and they fester into mental and physical illnesses. Our prison system in America is not rehabilitative but rather extremely punitive, thus fostering more trauma...
Did Nana's research for the book involve looking deeply into carceral systems and being in conversation with their current/former occupants? If yes, how did that experience shape its narrative?
When I recommend this book to friends, I say one of its remarkable aspects is how Nana makes us care for many of the characters. In each case, he gives us a way to see their humanity. I also loved the way he made the abuses the prisoners suffered in prison far worse then the crimes they committed. I’d like to think I’d find a way, not to forgive heinous crimes, but see people as flawed and/damaged humans. Danya Kukafka’s Notes on an Execution did a great job of presenting that. As a question for Nana, I’d like to know what helped him present his characters as complex characters with feelings.
I want to ask about the ending and why he chose to approach it that way (without spoiling too much if people haven’t finished the book yet).
I thought the crimes they committed and the injustices our main characters suffered pre-crime were all there for us to digest and interpret. I’m curious why Nana didn’t go into more detail about the why behind their crimes. Having to join a local gang because that’s your only option in life, or having to defend yourself against sexual aggressors or developing uncontrollable rage due to childhood trauma are all there but not told in detail. Curious about the decision to contain the whole story within CAPE while still sharing stats and realities from our modern times.
I once heard an abolitionist say that the first question people always ask is, what will we do with the rapists? And, how that is fundamentally a failure of imagination since prisons as we know them are a thoroughly modern invention so societies have dealt with these issues for hundreds of thousands of years. I think every crime is forgivable, even if it's not forgivable by the person closest to the crime. The question really is - how do we continue to see and honor people's humanity after they've committed atrocities? Do they deserve to be punished and tortured for the remainder of their lives?
I thought it was interesting how Adjei-Brenyah chose to reveal their crimes after we've gotten to know the characters, so we had a chance to see their humanity. What I found most interesting was how each character approached their own humanity. It broke my heart to read Sunset's last moments when he didn't feel worthy to leave.
Just say thank you from me please! ☺️