American Orphan


Gripping novel by acclaimed writer explores the life of a young man let down by society at every turn.

by Jimmy Santiago Baca

ISBN:  978-1-55885-912-8
Publication Date: 
March 31, 2021
Trade Paperback

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“There’s no way you can do this reentry thing,” Orlando Lucero tells himself after getting out of prison. He has spent most of his life institutionalized, first in an orphanage and then in the Denver Youth Authority for smuggling weed. Orlando knows nothing about freedom. What does one do with it? What is it?

His brother promised to teach him the carpentry trade, but Orlando quickly discovers Camilo is—like their parents—an addict, robbing and stealing to feed his habit. So he turns to Lila, his prison pen pal who encouraged both his poetry writing and sexual fantasies. Soon he moves in with her and engages in the acts he dreamed about while incarcerated, but living the straight life seems impossible. “Freedom is full of hazards, lots of sharp edges, and they cut me at every turn.” As he is sucked back into a life of crime, he can’t help but think going back to prison would be a relief.

Renowned poet Jimmy Santiago Baca explores in lyrical prose one young man’s attempts to break free from the cycle of addiction, violence and abuse that contributed to his imprisonment and impede his search for happiness and a productive life. In a society that considers him a criminal because of his brown skin, and where those in authority—including a parade of priests when he was just a boy—take advantage of him, Orlando must learn to believe in himself against all the odds, in spite of the institutionalized racism he has endured since boyhood.