Finalist, Memoir Magazine's Memoir Prize
Finalist, Connecticut Center for the Book Award
“A brave voyage of discovery, Correctional is a real odyssey, barely making it home after navigating treacherous cultural and psychological waters. Thanks to Shankar’s brilliant writing and admirable honesty, we relive his harrowing, but eventually inspiring, personal saga. And his deep insights into our justice system are alone worth the price of admission.”
The first time Ravi Shankar was arrested, he spoke out against racist policing on National Public Radio and successfully sued the city of New York. The second time, he was incarcerated when his promotion to full professor was finalized. During his ninety-day pretrial confinement at the Hartford Correctional Center—a level 4, high-security urban jail in Connecticut—he met men who shared harrowing and heart-felt stories. The experience taught him about the persistence of structural racism, the limitations of mass media, and the pervasive traumas of twenty-first-century daily life.
Shankar’s bold and complex self-portrait—and portrait of America—challenges us to rethink our complicity in the criminal justice system and mental health policies that perpetuate inequity and harm. Correctional dives into the inner workings of his mind and heart, framing his unexpected encounters with law and order through the lenses of race, class, privilege, and his bicultural upbringing as the first and only son of South Indian immigrants. Vignettes from his early life set the scene for his spectacular fall and subsequent struggle to come to terms with his own demons. Many of them, it turns out, are also our own.
“Shankar is an absolutely brilliant writer; his prose, finessed from years of writing and teaching the craft of writing, is rhapsodic, punchy, profound, and discursively sound.”
—Shreerekha Pillai Subramanian, University of Houston—Clear Lake
“Through deft characterizations and snippets of inmates’ vernacular, Shankar creates vibrant portraits of his jailmates that are written with tolerance, sympathy, and often affection…Shankar’s honesty and humility render him a sympathetic figure. His elegant prose is strewn with references to philosophy and poetry, helping to make his storytelling compelling—even entertaining. Correctional is the story of a beleaguered man on the road to redemption, trying to set the record straight.”
“Elegantly wrought and emotionally transparent”
—Public Libraries Online
“A story that is by turns moving, horrifying, funny, and provocative. . . . Shankar has a poet’s ear and a journalist’s eye. . . . He magics personalities, places and events onto the page with such vividness that this story compels from the first page to the last.”
—Linda Jaivin, Sydney Review of Books
“A candid and often excruciating exposure not only of the protagonist’s inner workings, but those of his real-world mise-en-scène. . . . A fall is a seed for the growth of a via negativa, which only gains by losing, and Shankar’s hard-won words on the page are the telling trace of what has already been shed. We learn to see, as he does, from the reversed view granted in the falling.”
—Martin Kovan, Ploughshares
“The most admirable quality of this memoir is its unvarnished honesty. . . . Correctional by poet Ravi Shankar is a challenging, thought provoking, and profound examination of both the poet himself as well as the criminal justice system. Few writers would have the courage to expose themselves in such a nakedly honest way as Shankar does. Ravi Shankar makes no excuses for his own human weaknesses while also exposing the defects imbedded within the American criminal justice and incarceration systems and the overt racism rooted within these institutions.”
—Beltway Poetry Quarterly
Of Related Interest
LC: 2021009788 PS
248 pp. 6 x 9
28 b/w illus.