cover image This Life

This Life

Quntos KunQuest. Agate, $18 trade paper (196p) ISBN 978-1-57284-282-3

KunQuest’s searing debut depicts a man’s unrelentingly brutal life in the U.S. prison system. Lil Chris is an AU (“admitting unit,” the prison’s term for a new inmate) and at 19 has experienced enough loss and seen enough violence for a lifetime living in Bottom, one of Shreveport, La.’s roughest neighborhoods. Convicted of first-degree murder, he’s been sentenced to life at Angola. An aspiring rapper, he tries to keep to himself and builds up a mental defense by writing lyrics, and for the first two years, he mostly stays out of trouble. A parallel narrative follows Rise, a respected veteran of the prison system who offers advice to young AUs (“Set your own feet. Validate yourself. Mostly, it’s not what you do that these cats respect. It’s what you don’t”). When Rise demonstrates his skills in a freestyling match, he earns instant respect from Lil Chris. After a riot results in the death of a guard, Lil Chris and Rise both receive harsh punishment, and they reflect on how the criminal justice system is designed to keep them repressed and defeated (“Modern day slavery,” Lil Chris calls it). Using an effective experimental combination of prose and rap lyrics, KunQuest brilliantly captures the cadence and rhythm of the prison. Confident and unrelenting, this one hits hard. (June)