With echoes of Just Mercy and An American Marriage, THE LOVE PRISON MADE (AND UNMADE) is a remarkable memoir of a woman who falls in love with an incarcerated man, and the toll prison takes not only on those behind bars, but on their families and relationships
THE LOVE PRISON MADE (AND UNMADE)
by Ebony Roberts
Amistad, July 2019
Ebony’s parents were high school sweethearts and married young. By the time Ebony was born, the marriage was disintegrating. The little girl witnessed her parents’ brutal verbal and physical fights, fueled by her father’s alcoholism. Then her father tried to kill his mother. At five, Ebony was sexually assaulted. When she tried to tell, her voice was not heard.
Growing up, those experiences drastically affected the way Ebony viewed herself and set the pattern for her future romantic relationships. Despite being an intelligent, educated, and strong-minded woman, she was drawn to bad-boys: men who cheated; men who verbally abused her; men who disappointed her. Fed up, she cut off her hair and swore to wait for the partner God chose for her.
Then she met Shaka Senghor. Though she felt an intense spiritual connection, Ebony struggled with the idea that this man behind bars for murder could be the good love God wanted for her. Through letters and visits, she and Shaka fell deeply in love. After he was released they had a son, and Shaka was embraced by Oprah Winfrey and wrote a New York Times bestselling memoir. Their lives had been transformed—the worst should have been behind them.
But Shaka’s release was the beginning of the end of their love story. Traumatized by having doors shut in his face, Shaka became depressed and emotionally detached. His struggles to adjust to freedom would irrevocably damage their relationship.
The Love Prison Made (and Unmade) is heartfelt and insightful. It reveals powerful lessons about love, sacrifice, courage, and forgiveness; of living your highest principles and learning not to judge someone by their worst acts. Ultimately, it is a stark reminder of the emotional cost of American justice on human lives—the partners, wives, children, and friends—beyond the prison walls.
A former school administrator, Ebony Roberts is a writer, educator, activist, and researcher. She has taught at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. She recently served as program director for #BeyondPrisons, an organization designed to uplift the voices of those impacted by the criminal justice system. She received her BA in Social Relations and Psychology, and a Ph.D in Educational Psychology from Michigan State University.