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Journalism I

Word Count: 508

Draft#1

A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca

A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca.

Memoir: A Place to Stand Book Review

Growing up, Jimmy Santiago Baca never quite fit in as a Mexican American in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Born in 1952, Baca was abandoned by his parents when he was two, and lived with his grandmother. After a few years, he was sent to live in the orphanage and wounded up living on the streets. Soon after, at the age of twenty-one, Baca was incarcerated for drug possession and alleged murder.

Having never to learn how to read or write Baca served six years in prison doing just that. He taught himself, while trying to survive the brutal truths of the most degrading humane morals. Even though he was loosing bits and pieces of his soul, little by little, he learned to feel again through writing.

In this captivating memoir, A Place to Stand, Baca tells the side of history that we don’t learn about in textbooks. It speaks of injustice during a time when people did not have enough love in their hearts to accept people who were different from them. Filled with hate and hurt in his heart at the society that did not accept him for his culture, this youth lashed out in the only way he knew how, rebelling against society norms. “Fighting, drinking, and getting high, driving around, this was my life for three or four years.” (p. 34)

Through his years of isolation, Baca has learned to be the voice of those who cannot speak of their fears, for those who cannot mention the darkness that rules their lives. He is now a renowned writer of stories, essay, poetry, and a screenplay. In each of these, Baca has tried to present the cries that are not usually heard, and we discover how he started on this journey with this book. “I was a witness for those who […] would never have a place of their own […]. My job was to witness and record the ‘it’ of their lives, to celebrate those who don’t have a place in this world to stand and call home. […] My pen and heart chronicle their hopes, doubts, regrets, loves, despairs, and dreams.” (p. 244)

There is also a sense of Baca’s writings belonging to the people. He has found his own writer’s voice in a unique place, in a place where others before him have fallen. To be able to pull through all this shows the compassion that Baca has. Thus, the poor and the socially oppressed revere him as a symbol of hope.

I highly recommend this book, especially to people who want to read a true story of a time before, the predecessor of now. In here, Baca writes with a direct bluntness in simple terms that gets the message across. He doesn’t try to soften the reality of prison life, nor of the lives of those who are impoverished and socially ostracized. Here we learn the unforgettable struggle of a challenged young man trying to learn to forgive and still contribute back to a world that he has never truly belonged in.

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