Brother One Cell: An American Coming of Age in South Korea's Prisons

Cullen Thomas, Author
Cullen Thomas, Author . Viking $24.95 (347p) ISBN 978-0-670-03827-5
Reviewed on: 12/18/2006
Release date: 04/01/2007
Paperback - 408 pages - 978-0-283-07025-9
Book - 1 pages - 978-1-4159-3787-7
Paperback - 347 pages - 978-0-14-311311-9
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-4295-6422-9
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 368 pages - 978-1-4295-6423-6
Paperback - 408 pages - 978-0-330-43970-1
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In May 1994, Thomas, a slacker vagabond teaching English, was arrested in Seoul, South Korea, for smuggling hashish into the country. He served three and a half years in various prisons and was released in 1997. In this strangely uneventful memoir, Thomas recounts his trials and tribulations in flat, unmodulated prose. Using an unnecessarily complicated flashback style at the beginning, Thomas presents himself as an innocent abroad—a symbol of the legions of disaffected middle-class youth wandering the globe aimlessly looking for, well, they don't really know. While teaching English to Korean children, Thomas falls in with an unsavory lot and heads to the Philippines for a drug deal. This goes awry, and he lands in prison, where he meets and befriends various other foreigners. One prison is like a U.N. of convicted losers. Most troubling is that while Thomas gives the reader plenty of detail and keeps the story moving forward well enough, he seems little affected by the experience. It is as though, as a relatively privileged American, Thomas is so stunned by being forced to serve his full term for his crime that he is unable or unwilling to be humbled by the experience. (Mar.)

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