From the Bottom of the Heap in Publishers Weekly

From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King

Publishers Weekly
December 2012

King has led a remarkable life: a hardscrabble childhood in and around New Orleans, a troubled adolescence, and a series of encounters with the justice system that led to several stints at Louisiana’s Angola State Penitentiary. He radicalized while serving his third sentence, joining the Black Panther Party and agitating for improved conditions for prisoners. King was subsequently placed in solitary confinement, where he remained for the better part of three decades. The book is an important document of the failures of the justice system. Mumia Abu-Jamal’s foreword attests to the gravity of these failures. However, King’s own telling doesn’t quite measure up to the story itself. His prose is loose and repetitive, particularly in the early chapters, so it sometimes difficult to keep tabs on people and events. The text is followed by a small collection of interviews and essays that prove engaging but haphazard, in keeping with the anecdotal bent of the autobiography. King’s story is powerful, carefully observed, and deserves a wide audience, but such an incendiary topic requires greater precision in its telling.

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