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True Notebooks: A Writer's Year at Juvenile Hall

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Mark Salzman

5 Hours 27 Minutes

Random House (Audio)

September 2003

Audio Book Summary

When Mark Salzman is invited to visit a writing class at Central Juvenile Hall, a lockup for Los Angeles’s most violent teenage offenders, he scrambles for a polite reason to decline. He goes—expecting the worst—and is so astonished by what he finds that he becomes a teacher there himself. True Notebooks is an account of Salzman’s first years teaching at Central. Through it, we come to know his students as he did: in their own words.

At times impossible and at times irresistible, they write with devastating clarity about their pasts, their fears, their confusions, their regrets, and their hopes. They write about what led them to crime and to gangs, about love for their mothers and anger toward their (mostly absent) fathers, about guilt for the pain they have caused, and about what it is like to be facing life in prison at the age of seventeen. Most of all, they write about trying to find some reason to believe in themselves—and others—in spite of all that has gone wrong.
Surprising, charming, upsetting, enlightening, and ultimately hopeful—driven by the insight and humor of Salzman’s voice and by the intelligence, candor, and strength of his students, whose writing appears throughout the book—True Notebooks is itself a reward of the self-expression Mark Salzman teaches: a revelatory meditation on the process, power, and meaning of writing.

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  • S.E.S.

    Depressing, discouraging and sad but uplifting and inspiring. My emotions were up and down throughout the book. It was incredibly well written, Mark does an awesome job of relating his experience. Very poignant ending!

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  • Peggy Stortz

    True Notebooks is absolutely riveting. I sat in my car long after I had reached my final destination just to hear more about Salzman's group of authors. I hope that the young men who contributed to this class know what an impact their words have had on so many people. I could not recommend this book more highly.

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  • Katrina Knox

    Iwas a little weary of reading this book, I didn't want to hear a bunch of "oh feel sorry for me stories". SUPRISE it was a wonderful book, that left me crying at the end, but also wondering what if anything I could do for the very same kind of teens in my own area. Mr SAlzman, wrote it so that you see he is not trying to be a do gooder, he has faults just like the kids, and maybe it's what can bring us all together. Thank you Mark for a wonderfully touching book.

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  • Blake Chapin

    This is an eye opening account of reaching out for a portion of society and contributing with one’s strengths. Well written and well read I found this to be an endearing reminder that all of us matter, or at least can matter if the effort is put forth. A very candid account of how similar we can be from each other while till being very much the same.

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