At age 23, Cullen Thomas was, like most middle-class kids his age, looking for something meaningful and exciting to do before settling into the 9-to-5 routine. Possessed of a youthful, romantic view of the world, he set off for adventure in Asia and a job teaching English in Seoul, South Korea. But he got more than he ever bargained for when an ill-advised stunt led to a drug-smuggling arrest and a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence. Brother One Cell is Cullen's memoir of that time - the harrowing and unusual story of a good kid forced to grow up in very unusual circumstances. One of only a handful of foreign inmates, Cullen shared a cell block with human-traffickers, jewel smugglers, murderers, and thieves. Fortunately for him, the strict Confucian social mores that dominated the prison made it almost a safe place, different from the brutal, lawless setting most would imagine. In the relative calm of this environment, Cullen would learn invaluable life lessons and come out of the experience a wise and grounded adult.
With its gritty descriptions of life behind the concrete walls, colorful depictions of his fellow inmates, and acute insights about Korean society, Brother One Cell is part gritty prison story, part cautionary tale, and part insightful travelogue into the places most people never see.
"Reflective, often highlighter-worthy prose....Thomas...lyrically describes his Zenlike effort to stay sane through shoe-factory work and prison basketball." (Outside)
"It's an offbeat coming-of-age story, the tale of a wide-eyed, innocent, middle-class American thrust into a world of deprivation and daily trials that speed his passage into adulthood and a deeper understanding of himself and the fallen creatures around him. Told simply, and with extraordinary good humor, it reads like a cross between "What I Did on My Summer Vacation" and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." (The New York Times)
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this book could not be better