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Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison Paperback – 10 Aug 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Carroll & Graf Publishers Inc (10 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786720379
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786720378
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 14.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 184,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

T.J. Parsell is a writer and human rights activist dedicated to ending sexual abuse against men, women, and children in all forms of detention. He is currently President-elect of Stop Prisoner Rape and serves as a consultant to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission. Parsell has testified before numerous government bodies and was instrumental in passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, the first ever federal legislation to address this issue. He lives in Sag Harbor, NY. Visit his web site at

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Justin R on 2 Sept. 2008
Format: Paperback
This is a true masterpiece that will move any reader, T.J's account of events are brutal honest and so compelling at the same time that you will not be able to put this book down, it will take you on a rollercoaster of emotion that truly draws you into his story, no-one in the world should have endured what he went through this story will inspire many and shows just how strong the human spirit can be. I finished this book in just two days and would highly recommend to anyone.. I will say it again absolute masterpiece.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ralph on 8 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
T.J. Parsell's true story just grips you from start to finish. This book will teach you far more than any academic social science paper. If you have a chance of reading this book grab it with both hands and dont let go until you reach the final full stop in the book.
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0 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mrs on 4 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
Not the best book I have ever read; mainly based on the sexuality of teenager in adult prison with little depth to the story
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 255 reviews
126 of 134 people found the following review helpful
Riveting, emotional and outstanding memoir of a young gay man 3 Dec. 2006
By Bob Lind - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tim Parsell was a skinny, 17 year old inexperienced gay boy from a dysfunctional family, when he ended up going to prison for an attempted robbery of a PhotoMat with a toy gun. After a gang rape by several older inmates, he became the "property" of an inmate nicknamed SlideStep, who protected him from further attacks in return for his complete obedience and sexual servitude. But Tim is separated from SideStep when he is called to court, is sexually propositioned by a probation officer who will make a report to the court, and sees his original plea bargain deal disappear when the rebuffed officer gives him a negative report. Now in a different facility, facing up to four years in prison, Tim takes the advice of another "boy" and hooks up with another older inmate for protection in exchange for favors.

An intelligently-written, emotional blockbuster of a memoir, painting an honest and riveting portrait of what is right and wrong with our prison system. From the prison employees who are as much a victim of the "system" as the inmates, to racial strife that is encouraged by poor management decisions, to those rare administrators who try to bend the rules to do what they know is right, this is an incredible look at a world most of us will never see, but of which we have the duty to know. The sexually explicit content is meant to educate rather than titillate, and show the special physical and emotional hell this can be for a young man trying to reconcile his sexual orientation. The author, who has gone on to a successful career in computer software and is now one of the most outspoken advocates for prison reform in the country, also provides closure with two sections at the end that update what he knows of the characters mentioned. It's a powerful, gut-wrenching journey, much recommended to all. Five stars out of five.

67 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Prison Society, Sex and Personal Responsibility 29 Jan. 2007
By C. Inc - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It would be hard to improve on the many fine reviews that have been posted on "Fish" so I'll concentrate on a few other matters raised in the book. I read it over a weekend and it was impossible to put down (except for occasional sleep).

I was impressed that the author resisted casting himself in the role of woeful victim of an oppressive system (although the system was very bad.) His reckless behavior learned in his family and bad choices he made as a teenager unfortunately predisposed him to being caught in the web of the corrections system. His acknowledgment of his own weaknesses gives the book a poignancy that it would not have had if he had not been as honest. That certainly put him head and shoulders above the stereotypical inmate-as-victim. That also doubtlessly prompted the guard shortly before his release to acknowledge to him "You do not belong in here."

His description of the society created by inmates behind bars is powerful. It reminds us when we create colonies of society's cast-offs, that they will create their own social structures with unique norms, mores, taboos, hierarchy, rituals, rules and enforcement mechanisms. These social structures have been created by desperate men so understandably they may be shocking to polite society. A comparison to "Lord of the Flies" is probably apt since the architects of prison society often have not matured beyond limited adolescent self-control.

What was particularly instructive is the author's perspective of the central position of sexual activity in the prison setting. I admit that my previous perception was that prison sex was a minor incident to other prison activities (legal and illegal). Not so says Mr. Parsell. It is central to the prison system. Sex in the form of rape represents both physical pleasure for the dominant inmate and the power delight in compelling the weaker to submit to the sexual demands of the stronger. If the author is to be believed (and I found him credible) then stopping rape in prison would require much more than closer supervision by guards and tougher penalties on rapists. It would require the most comprehensive reconsideration of penology since Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon plan of two centuries ago.

This is an important book that deserves to be read by policy makers, corrections officials, judges, and lawyers as well as anyone who wants a better understanding of crime and punishment in modern America.
43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Far Finer A Book Than The Title Suggests! 25 Jan. 2007
By Grady Harp - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
T.J. Parsell had many things going against him - after a life that would have been the destruction of most other youths suffering an abusive home life and going to prison for 'armed robbery' which in fact was a Photo Mat trick holdup with a toy gun - and he ends up a winner. This book, his first outing as a professional writer, is a tightly woven tale in the manner of a 'rake's progress' of what life inside our penal system is truly like. Fortunately for us, as readers, Parsell was able to successfully turn his life around after his incarceration and become an advocate for human rights, while concurrently presenting to the public the evidence that he has a natural gift for storytelling. This is not the typical 'confessions of a bad boy who survived': this is a finely written novel that explores characterization, atmosphere, and the trials of existing in the 'other world' inside prison bars.

Parsell tells of his abuse and gang rape upon entry into prison, how he survived due to the kindness of 'his man' and finally came to accept his sexuality, finding friends and comrades along the way that served to redeem his rather bleak outlook on life by giving him the needed affection missing from birth. Nothing is 'prettified' nor is anything painted in a wholly negative fashion: life inside prison is different than it is on the outside - or is it? Is prison just a microcosm of why we as members of society cling to prejudices and have such a dearth of self esteem that we cannot see the larger global picture?

Parsell presents his personal history in a manner that allows the reader to empathize, maintain critical distance, and still cheer for the underdog. He also writes a very beautiful love story and offers supportive evidence that personal sexual proclivity is a valid part of every individual's being. FISH is a fascinating, page-turning read, and despite some editorial flaws such as typos and grammar corrections, this is a very fine book - far better than anyone would expect. Recommended Reading. Grady Harp, January 07
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
courage revealed 23 Oct. 2006
By tuesday - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. Gripping, moving, and heartwarming. Parsell takes an issue which has long been the subject of tasteless jokes, and turns it into a deep examination of prisoner rape's impact on human lives. A genuine page-turner AND an indicting social commentary : a rare combination!
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Unable to put it down 22 Oct. 2006
By Jennifer Oswald - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is so compelling a story that I could not put it down. I laughed at the childhood antics and cried and the angst of a child torn apart by parents, all the while being pulled into the system along with the author. Written and edited so that the reader,thankfully, receives an escape from the horrors of prison life, graphically depicted here, yet drawn back into the story by the child who seeks the love, affection and attention due him. This is a story that should have been told years ago to inform the public of the true conditions of our jails and prisons.
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