“Tattooing in prison is like trying to sew fine stitches with a knitting needle. It’s the essence of prison ingenuity – that so much can be done with so little.”
An unflinching and deeply moving collection of stories by a debut writer currently serving a life sentence in Michigan’s prison system. His stories form a vivid portrait of prison life, painted from behind bars
The Graybar Hotel offers a glimpse into the reality of prison life through the eyes of the people who spend their days and years behind bars.
A man sits collect-calling strangers every day just to hear the sounds of the outside world; an inmate recalls his descent into addiction as his prison softball team gears up for an annual tournament; a prisoner is released and finds freedom more complex and baffling than he expected.
In this stunning debut story collection, Curtis Dawkins, who is currently serving a life sentence without parole, gives voice to the experience of some of the most isolated members of our society.
“A debut collection that is compelling and real … Remarkable for its modesty, realism and humanity … He has produced a book that is not only moving and genuine, but genuinely important; one that, without resorting to shock tactics, powerfully conveys the perverse inhumanity of mass incarceration”
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“Dawkins’s speciality in his writing is as much the mundanity of prison life as the unexpected … An engrossing introduction to a stark universe that can only come as a shock to those who have to navigate it for the first time for real”
“A dazzling debut … The gritty, gripping and grimly comic stories … draw the reader in with the sweep of their humanity and empathy”
“In each of his stories, he depicts the gritty reality of life caged up. Often unapologetic and always moving, Dawkins gives voice to a group of people forgotten by society”
“This is an assured and ultimately humane collection … The prose is sparse and precise yet brimming with resonance and meaning, and there is a seam of deathly dark humour running through the stories. An impressive and authentic glimpse at a world most of us will thankfully never know”
the Big Issue
Curtis Dawkins grew up in rural Illinois and earned an MFA in fiction writing at Western Michigan University. He has struggled with alcohol and substance abuse through most of his life and, during a botched robbery, killed a man on Halloween 2004. Since late 2005, he’s been serving a life sentence, with no possibility of parole, in various prisons throughout Michigan. He has three children with his partner, Kim, who is a writing professor living in Portland, Oregon.