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From inmate to author: Cyntoia Brown-Long to speak at Dartmouth

  • FILE - In this May 23, 2018, file pool photo, Cyntoia Brown, a woman serving a life sentence for killing a man when she was a 16-year-old prostitute, smiles at family members during her clemency hearing at Tennessee Prison for Women in Nashville, Tenn. Brown who said she was a teenage sex-trafficking victim when she killed a man in 2004 is scheduled to be released from prison on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2019, after being granted clemency. (Lacy Atkins/The Tennessean via AP, Pool, File) Lacy Atkins

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/14/2019 9:42:31 PM
Modified: 11/15/2019 11:13:49 AM

Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System

by Cyntoia Brown-Long,
with Bethany Mauger;

Atria Books;

320 pages, $26

Cyntoia Brown-Long was a 16-year-old victim of sex trafficking when she was sentenced to life in prison for killing a 43-year-old man who had picked her up for sex. She spent 15 years in prison before she was granted clemency by the governor of Tennessee and freed last August. Her new book, Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System, written while she was behind bars and published last month, tells the story of her years as a troubled youth who fell victim to sexual predation, the crime she committed and her experiences with the criminal justice system. She’ll be at Dartmouth’s Alumni Hall on Monday at 6:30 p.m. for a fireside chat hosted by the NAACP at Dartmouth. 

Moderated by Joshua Bennett, assistant professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth, and Maya Perkins and Carlos Polanco, both Dartmouth students, the event focuses on the American prison industrial complex through the eyes of black women.

Born to a mother alcoholism who was a victim of sex trafficking herself, Brown-Long was adopted by a loving family in Clarkstown, Tenn., but turned to petty crime at a young age and ran away to Nashville, where she wound up living in a hotel with a pimp who raped and abused her and forced her into prostitution. 

“I didn’t really understand what a healthy relationship looked like,” she said in an interview on National Public Radio last month. “I just looked at, I’m getting money because we need money to survive. I’m contributing to the relationship.” 

In August 2004, Brown-Long went home with a real estate broker named Johnny Allen. After they got into bed, Allen reached under the bed for something. Brown-Long grabbed a handgun from her purse and shot him. 

“I felt that he was either reaching for a gun, something was going to happen,” she told NPR. “But it was just panic just went off inside of me, and I reacted.” 

The jury didn’t see it that way. Tried as an adult in 2006, Brown-Long was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole until she was 67. 

In prison, Brown-Long earned an associate’s degree and a reputation as a model inmate. Based on her good behavior and changes to juvenile sentencing laws, and pressured by supporters including Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West, Republican Gov. Bill Haslam granted her clemency in January. 

Now on a book tour, Brown-Long has been drawing large crowds to her events and appearances. Monday night’s event is free and open to the public. Representatives from Norwich Bookstore will be on hand with books for purchase and signing.

Reconnecting to the Earth: Reclaiming Our Relationship to Nature and Ourselves

by Aaron Hoopes;

Ozark Mountain Publishing;

112 pages, $13

As much as Americans talk about the Earth, the majority of us have lost any real kinship with it, says Vershire author Aaron Hoopes. He wants to change that. Hoopes’ new book, Reconnecting to the Earth: Reclaiming Our Relationship to Nature and Ourselves, urges readers to commune with the natural world and reclaim their place in it and responsibility toward it. More than just aphorisms, the book contains a practical framework for finding one’s place in the natural world. 

Hoopes is a Kung Fu instructor, Zen Shiatsu massage therapist, wood-carver and president of the nonprofit community organization VerShare. This is his sixth book. 

American Exceptionalism
Takes Its Toll 

by William Boardman;

Yorkland Publishing;

740 pages, $39.95

Woodstock author William Boardman brings a timely topic to print with his new book, Exceptional: American Exceptionalism Takes Its Toll. In the book, a collection of essays, Boardman describes how the concept of American exceptionalism is ingrained in our culture and how it has led to the current crisis in the White House. The essays cover a range of societal problems birthed or made worse by America-centric ideology, including the poor treatment of immigrants, the perpetration of war crimes, profit-driven climate policies and the erosion of voting rights. The book also touches on many of the alleged impeachable offenses committed by President Trump. 

Over the past 40 years, Boardman has written for a variety of publications and outlets in theater, radio, TV and print journalism. 

Sarah Earle can be reached at or 603-727-3268.

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