• Our Class

  • Trauma and Transformation in an American Prison
  • By: Chris Hedges
  • Narrated by: Prentice Onayemi
  • Length: 7 hrs and 8 mins
  • 4.9 out of 5 stars (93 ratings)

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Our Class  By  cover art

Our Class

By: Chris Hedges
Narrated by: Prentice Onayemi
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Publisher's Summary

A powerfully moving book that “could make graspable why today’s prisons are contemporary slave plantations” (Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple), giving voice to the poorest among us and laying bare the cruelty of a penal system that too often defines their lives.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges has taught courses in drama, literature, philosophy, and history since 2013 in the college degree program offered by Rutgers University at East Jersey State Prison and other New Jersey prisons. In his first class at East Jersey State Prison, where students read and discussed plays by Amiri Baraka and August Wilson, among others, his class set out to write a play of their own. In writing the play, Caged, which would run for a month in 2018 to sold-out audiences at the Passage Theatre in Trenton, New Jersey, and later be published, students gave words to the grief and suffering they and their families have endured, as well as to their hopes and dreams. The class’ artistic and personal discovery, as well as transformation, is chronicled in heartbreaking detail in Our Class.

This “magnificent” (Cornel West, author of Race Matters) book gives a human face and a voice to those our society too often demonizes and abandons. It exposes the terrible crucible and injustice of America’s penal system and the struggle by those trapped within its embrace to live lives of dignity, meaning, and purpose.

©2021 Summit Study, Inc. All rights reserved. (P)2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Our Class

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Riveting Story and Reality

I have come to know the great skills Hesges has and this is no exception. I think this book was more about his experience and his development as a human being while teaching in prison than the reality of prison in America. The story was good but it lacked structure at times. I found myself lost in the chapter and had to come back to figure out where I left off.

Narrator was excellent and I am hoping to hear from more him.

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Hedges’ Best Work Yet

Great Narrator, amazing story. A lot of the book is told from Hedges’ perspective, which was very interesting. IMHO, his best book yet.

1 person found this helpful

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Harrowing account of the prison system in the US

This is a dark subject but required reading in this country as it depicts the doom of prisoners

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Amazing.

I’ve listened to dozens of Chris’s talks and most of his books. Life changing is all I can say.

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Astonishing

Quite simply, one of the most important books I have ever read. Should be required reading in every high school

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powerful

I actually got goosebumps at the end. I cannot recommend this book enough. two words

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Thank you Chris Hedges!

This work is deeply profound, insightful, and inspiring. This is a story about resurrection from the dead. I see the dry bones from Ezekiel coming alive.

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really good

loved it worth the read made me think Chris is a genius hard to say anything bad

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Amazing

An amazing listen that let's the reader peek into the hidden world of the imprisoned.

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A very important book

Among the many, many challenges that plague America, the massive and deeply unfair imprisonment of such large parts of the population, in particular black men, may be one of the saddest, most racist.

In this book, I learned about the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. It became big business to imprison people, especially black men of course, which is part of the reason so many of them are in jail today. A history of racism, violence and demonisation of them as violent criminals even though they're in jail more minor crimes or are innocent.

Second, I learned that only a small percentage of prisoners have been convicted in a trial. Most are there with plea deals. This includes many many innocent people who have been told they'll have no chance in a trial. In addition, many innocent people refuse plea deals, assuming they'll go free, because they're innocent, but then get harsher sentences than the plea deal. This scares others into taking deals.

Third, I learned prisoners (at least in the Jersey jail in this book) get 15 minutes to visit a dying relative or see a deseased relative in a funeral home, with no other family present. They are accompanied by a guard, of course, and have to pay the overtime of that guard, which can be hundreds of dollars. I learned a lot more than that of course.

Please read. Also, please look up other works by Chris Hedges, in books, online newspapers, on YouTube and his podcast.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-30-21

Slow & Boring

Chris Hedges can and has done far better than this.

Dissapointed.

1 star, only because I cant give it 0.

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  • Rory Watts
  • 08-26-22

Another impactful work by Hedges

Wow.
I have read perhaps three other books by Chris Hedges, and this is the second I have listened to. Each time I buy one I feel hesitant, because I know that the content will be hard. This is no exception.
However, with each book read I am reminded why I read Hedges' books, and why I read in general. Hedges is the master of presenting human stories amidst inhumane conditions. This book is overwhelming at times, but it should be.
I would strongly recommend the book.
Furthermore, Onayemi's performance is one of the best I've ever listened to.