A book that has come to my attention is:  IN SUNSHINE AND IN SHADOW (a mother’s story of autism and addiction); by Dixie Miller Stewart, dixienok@cox.net.

Dixie’s son, Rob is serving seventeen years to life in a California State Prison.  Although his mother was accustomed to receiving calls asking, “Are you the mother of Robert Bowers?” nothing could have prepared her for the call letting her know that her son had stabbed a man.

Rob didn’t merely stab the man because of that day’s pain.  He stabbed what that man represented:  someone bigger and worse; someone who didn’t play fair; who sexually violated his body and innocence; someone who had repeatedly robbed him of all his possessions…and twice left him for dead from stab wounds, and who countless times mocked and humiliated him in public. He finally stabbed those men back.

In 2003, Robert Bowers waived trial and plead guilty to murder in the second degree.  In her book, IN SUNSHINE AND IN SHADOW, his mother tells his compelling, heartbreaking story.  It is not a tale of heroics, success, or courage as society defines those, neither is it one about the transcendence of the human spirit over evil to some higher plane.  It is instead a story about the mere survival of the broken spirit of a very shy, strangely disabled, usually gentle, and almost always tormented young man.

Autism, addiction, and abuse made life an incredible struggle for Rob.

Dixie Miller Stewart writes to give a voice to Rob and the men and women like him who don’t fit any molds, neither those society sets for them, nor those of “criminal.”  They are the lost people who in desperate moments, made awful decisions for which they will pay the rest of their lives.  And his story is to give understanding to frightened parents, a heart to a society hardened by behaviors it doesn’t understand, and a conscience to anyone who rejects the “different” child.  She challenges readers to look past their prejudices.

My experience teaching in prison tells me that Rob’s story is all too common. In last week’s New York Times, Nicholas Kristof wrote an article called, “Inside a Mental Hospital Called Jail. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/opinion/sunday/inside-a-mental-hospital-called-jail.html?_r=0

Today’s NY Times (Feb 16) carries several responses to Mr. Kristof’s article in the Review Section.

IN SUNSHINE AND IN SHADOW is available from the author or from Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Sunshine-Shadow-Dixie-Miller-Stewart-ebook/dp/B008FQRF5O/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391917820&sr=1-1&keywords=in+sunshine+and+in+shadow+Dixie+Miller+Stewart

  1. Ed, I very much appreciate your comments on In Sunshine and In Shadow. I’m also delighted to discover your blog and to know that there are others “out there” who advocate for simply treating inmates like human beings…if we want them to be released as human! Dixie Miller Stewart

  2. David Rennie says:

    Probably the most touching and sensitive book I’ve ever read . . . life at its most difficult portrayed as only a single mother could describe it . . . Dr. Stewart has put her heart in this book and it is opened for all to see its beauty.

  3. jcommittedk says:

    Thank-you Ed for bringing the plight of the mentally ill in jails and prisons to light. I have read elsewhere also that it is more than 50 percent of those who are incarcerated that have a mental illness.

    I’d like to point to another problem. Once in prison, at least in Canada, many do not get treatment. Many, have their medications discontinued and are left to fight their demons without much help at all. I have even heard of prisoners being told that it is better not to admit to a mental illness if they wish to get parole.

    The stigma of mental illness in our society is truly great and when people with a mental illness also add crime to their list of minuses, they are all but doomed.

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