Jimmy Santiago Baca, winner of the Pushcart Prize and the American Book Award, has been called an heir to Pablo Neruda and one of the best poets in America today. At the age of twenty-one, however, he was illiterate and facing five to ten years in a maximum-security prison for selling drugs. Five years later he emerged from prison with the ability to read and a passion for writing poetry. A Place to Stand is his memoir of childhood on small farms in New Mexico, his adolescence spent in orphanages and detention centers, his years as a drug dealer in San Diego and Arizona, and his extraordinary personal transformation under harrowing conditions behind bars.
Deserted by his family, Baca escaped from an orphanage to face violence and bigotry. He ignored anyone who offered a way out, using his talent for fighting to stay strong on the rough-and-tumble streets. Unemployed, Baca experimented with crimeand finally turned to drug dealing.
In prison, Baca describes the extreme measures he has to take to survive, from beating another inmate with a lead pipe to slicing an attacker's stomach with a butcher's knife. Although these were acts of self-defense, they landed him repeatedly in solitary confinement. His time in isolation was intended to break his spirit, but it proved to the catalyst for an extraordinary series of memories and revelations that endowed him with an indomitable will to resist the dehumanization of prison life. Poetry became and essential element of this newfound sense of self, and the act of writing offered a powerful means of transcending his surroundings. A Place to Stand is a vivid portrait of life inside a maximum-security prison and an affirmation of one man's spirit in overcoming the most brutal adversity.