My Life in Prison by Donald Lowrie (Heathen Edition)

My Life in Prison

Spine #22
Donald Lowrie
First Edition
Heathen Edition
March 26, 2023
Heathen Genera
Paperback ISBN
Hardcover ISBN
I was broke. I had not eaten for three days.

I had walked the streets for three nights. Every fiber of my being, every precept of my home training protested against and would not permit my begging.

I saw persons all about me spending money for trifles, or luxuries. I envied the ragged street urchin as he took a nickel in exchange for a newspaper and ran expectantly to the next pedestrian. But I was broke and utterly miserable.

Have you ever been broke?

Have you ever been hungry and miserable, not knowing when or where you were going to get your next meal, nor where you were going to spend your next night?

Have you ever felt as though the world itself were against you and that a mistake had been made by nature in inflicting you with life?

Charles Donald Lowrie (1875–1925) left his Massachusetts home as a young man and hopscotched westward working as a stenographer, construction camp timekeeper, bookkeeper, railroad laborer, and traveling salesman before finding himself in Los Angeles starving and broke save for a vandalized nickel in his pocket – a nickel that would decide his fate: “heads” meant crime, “tails” meant suicide. What he couldn’t know as he flipped that coin was that fate would soon deliver a 15-year “jolt” in San Quentin State Prison and a wildly unique literary career. Pursuing his burgeoning authorial ambitions by lamplight in his prison cell, Lowrie’s work caught the eye of a San Francisco newspaper editor who assisted with his gaining parole after ten years. The editor immediately put him to work and My Life in Prison was birthed to overnight success, kickstarting the American prison literature genre and instigating nationwide prison reforms still in effect today.
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"Written so simply yet with such power and such complete and evident sincerity."
Thomas Mott Osborne
Within Prison Walls