That Bird Has My Wings
The Autobiography of an Innocent Man on Death Row
By Jarvis Jay Masters
HarperOne, Hardcover, 9780061730450, 304pp.
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
List Price: $24.99*
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Jarvis Jay Masters has taken an extraordinary journey of faith. Strangely enough, his moment of enlightenment came behind the bars of San Quentin's death row. In this compelling memoir, inmate and author Jarvis Jay Masters takes us from the arms of his heroin-addicted mother to an abusive foster home, on his escape to the illusory freedom of the streets and through lonely nights spent in bus stations and juvenile homes, and finally to life inside the walls of San Quentin State Prison. Using the nub and filler from a ballpoint pen (the only writing instrument allowed him in solitary confinement), Masters chronicles the story of a bright boy who turns to a life of crime, and of a penitent man who embraces Buddhism to find hope in this ultimately inspirational story.
Masters has written his remarkable story as a cautionary tale for anyone who might be tempted to follow in his footsteps, and as a plea for under-standing to a world that too often ignores the plight of the forgotten members of society. His personal story dramatically reminds us all that freedom and opportunity are not to be taken for granted, and that no matter what their neighborhood, no matter what their race, every child matters.
Brave, heartbreaking, redemptive and wise. Jarvis Jay Masters has turned his life into remarkable good medicine.
-Jack Kornfield, author of A Path with Heart
A real-life The Wire-heartbreaking and harrowing, impossible to put down. A miraculous accomplishment, That Bird Has My Wings captivates, instructs, and inspires as Masters shows how enlightenment can occur even in a place as grim as San Quentin Prison’s death row.
-David Sheff, author of Beautiful Boy
A heartbreaking memoir; the brutal conditions of Masters’s boyhood will be difficult for some readers to take, but his ultimate message of hope and reconciliation is moving and inspiring. Highly recommended.
Masters’ intelligent, incisive prose paints a compelling depiction of the horrors leading to his situation. . . . while awaiting execution, Masters gives us much to think about.
“Masters’ intelligent, incisive prose paints a compelling depiction of the horrors leading to his situation . . . Masters gives us much to think about.”
“In this polished tale that belies the author’s raw origins, Masters, who has been imprisoned on San Quentin’s death row since 1990 . . . recalls the neglect, abuse and cycle of crime and hopelessness that relegated him to prison by age 19.”
Forthright about his own failings, Masters’ truth has brought him reconciliation with his best self. His compelling memoir is a plea for reform, for a common humanity, and I share his hope that this moving story will redouble our efforts to make sure that every child matters.
Jarvis Jay Masters was set on a dangerous course which eventually brought him to death row. Somehow, within those walls, he now demonstrates divine grace in his daily life and by the cautionary tale he shares within these pages. This amazing, wise man deserves our ear, and our support.
---Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking
Jarvis Jay Masters’ moving memoir provides an intimate portrait of the tragic racial inequality in our justice system, and testifies to the need for better education, greater training, and increased opportunity to keep these forgotten youth from ending up in our nation’s juvenile centers and prisons. Read this book!
-Van Jones, founder, The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights & Green for All, and author of Green Collar Economy
“That Bird Has My Wings is a powerful narrative of a life lost on the streets, and then found again in a prison cell on San Quentin’s death row. This is not a book about guilt or innocence, but about the possibility of redemption.”
That Bird Has My Wings absolutely soars.”
All across America, boys are lost to trauma and deprivation. Few of them have given voice to their experience and the redemptive power of spirituality as has Jarvis Jay Masters.
-James Garbarino, Ph.D., author of Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and What We Can Do About It
“Masters’ incisive unearthing of his past is a graceful and ultimately liberating story.”
The compassionate act of self-discovery captured in “That Bird Has My Wings” is one that, will reach well beyond the confines of one cell, one act, or one person - and inspire many.
-San Francisco Chronicle
As Masters moves from foster homes to juvie to prison, you start to understand how badly the system fails kids like him. . . .a page-turner.
-San Francisco magazine
“A gripping indictment of poverty and the foster-care system.”
“This brave account of a childhood ravaged by neglect, violence, and institutional indifference is remarkable for its utter lack of anger and bitterness. . . [Masters’s] ultimate message of hope and reconciliation is moving and inspiring. Highly recommended.”
Masters’ . . .ability to recognize, subdue and transform the self-destructive drive such life-denying forces promote is a lesson for us all. His time is now. His book is a testament to the human spirit.”
-Mike Farrell, chair of Death Penalty Focus and author of Just Call Me Mike:A Journey to Actor and Activist and From Mule to Man