Better, Not Bitter: Yusef Salaam
Genre: Adult Memoir
Ages: 16/17 plus
Islamic Screening: cussing, music, dating, references to a sexual encounter- some details given though nothing super graphic
Some books just move the heart so completely, that they feel life changing in the power of their words and the education they give the reader.
This book, in the words of Yusef Salaam, describes his arrest and his life leading up to the Central Park incident and afterwards…and how throughout it all, he got better, not bitter. This incident was in 1989, in which five young black boys were arrested and accused of raping and assaulting a women jogging in Central Park at night- and were found innocent of it 13 years later. He details how he held on to his innocence and his faith even through all the difficulties he faced, and that he looked for hope in order to heal and move on from the trauma, and thrive, although it still has lasting effects in his life.
Each chapter starts with quotes from famous Black individuals, thinkers, and rappers. Pictures are shown from the life of Yusef Salaam and he includes poems he wrote. His details of how the arrest happened, how he and the other 4 boys were tried and how they were treated in court all teach the reader about systemic racism.
The book was so educating on what it means to be Black in America, and how the prison system uses the Thirteenth amendment of the Constitution as a construct of modern day slavery for profit. The wisdom and insight of Dr.Salaam on the pages was so enlightening on how the system needs reform, something he is working towards himself.
Islam was central to the story, and Yusef Salaam talks of his faith often, talking about how he grew in learning about Islam and even became an Imam in the prisons. The book is full of Islamic wisdom and Quranic stories, and the inspiration he draws on from stories of the Prophets (as) was so inspiring to see.
Dr. Salaam strongly advocates for education (a trait he got from his amazing mother) and rehabilitation and is an inspiration for positive change in our society.
This book is a MUST READ!
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