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One of the challenge points on the Better World Books 2017 Reading […]
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Growing up in a devoutly religious family with a father who believed in firm discipline and who was also studying for a Protestant ministry, Joe Loya Jr. seemed a blessed child. When he was seven, however, his life was drastically altered when his mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness.
During the two years that led to her death, Joe's pious and studious father became more and more violent, brutally beating his two young sons. This contradiction haunted Joe for years until one day, at age sixteen, during a particularly severe beating, he finally retaliated and stabbed his father in the neck.
For Joe, this was the starting point of a life of crime: petty theft, forgery, fraud, and ultimately, bank robbery. When Joe was finally arrested after holding up his twenty-fourth bank, he was sent to prison, where he would serve seven years.
In prison, his criminal behavior only got worse, as he began to deal drugs, smuggle weapons, and even assault fellow prisoners, until he was placed in solitary confinement, the lowest of lows even for convicts. There, alone in his cell for two years, he was finally able to forgive his father, finding clarity, cultural insight, and redemption through writing.
During a soulful correspondence with acclaimed author Richard Rodriguez, Loya ultimately found that he wasn't alone in his struggle to discover his identity, and that anger is sometimes the doorway toward realizing one's self and one's purpose.
Although the images that propel an angry young man toward a life of crime may leave readers shuddering, the power of Joe Loya'sincredible story will surely remind us that we must not lose hope that wayward sons and daughters may one day return home.
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