This book’s title and cover art caught my attention for 2 reasons – First, I saw the lovely photograph of the lower half of a black lady’s face, which is not a common UK fiction book cover, secondly the title opened up an insight into a world that I had only ever heard about from the other side of the bars.
I was intrigued to hear how working in a UK prison as a prison officer is, not just for a person of colour, but for a woman of colour, of which I identify also.
I was lucky enough to be gifted a physical copy of the book and will cherish it, as it was a signed copy by Josie Channer, herself! I was so fan-girling! (Thanks so much Josie, I will cherish it, in case you ever read this) ?
Apparently, the author, Josie Channer, worked as a prison officer at HMP Holloway Prison in North London for many years and has lots of experience of how a prison is run.
I do wonder how much in the book is pure fiction, although I suppose Josie’s experience has shaped the story immensely, regardless.
Here’s the synopsis;
Well, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that at many times throughout this book, my mouth hung open in disbelief on many occasions – I had no idea about all the dramas and mayhem that prison officers face in their day to day jobs, especially in a women’s prison.
I didn’t expect to it to be all sunshine and flowers, but I do realise that women, typically tend to go to prison for lesser crimes than a man, but I felt so naive regarding the levels of havoc and violence within the walls of a woman’s prison.
I loved the diary format of the book, this is one of my favourite styles of books to read, it’s like easy “chunks” of relevant story with no unnecessary “filler”.
The narrative switches seamlessly from the current day, of Amber on a self-discovery holiday to various African nations and back to the diary stories of her prison officer days, which was another nice touch and very well balanced, never staying too long in each part, that you forget where you are in the story on the other timeline.
The book deals with some hard hitting themes such as identity, belonging, race, and the human need to feel accepted in society.
In the African timeline, Amber is searching for roots, an understanding of her Jamaican ancestry, which is obviously traced back to Africa, but like Amber, my family are of West Indian/Caribbean heritage in Dominica, and like her my ancestors are likely to be traced back to West Africa, although it could in theory be South Africa or any other part of this vast continent, so I could identify with her frustration of not knowing for sure.
Her pilgrimage across Africa, was so inspiring, it gave me a sense of wanderlust, and I hope one day, I can make a similar journey to find out more about where I come from.
Don’t worry, this book is not all doom and gloom, as there were some laughs and fun in the book, I particularly liked the New York Trip with Mariah & Miss Hall which started off a bit rocky, but taught Amber a lesson in friendship, that was a sweet moment.
Within the Prison Officer timeline, the amount of systematic racism & sexism within the prison system to their own staff is absolutely appalling and I can only hope that the situation has vastly improved.
I felt so sorry for the prisoners with mental health issues that seemed to have very little support.
These issues, amongst others, are highlighted in this book.
This book is very well written and is definitely as educational as it is entertaining.
It’s a the perfect read for Black History Month, so grab a copy now…
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0892J2XLZ – Amazon UK
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0892J2XLZ – Amazon US
Keep up with Josie Channer on social media – Twitter – @JosieChanner