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This Is Ear Hustle: Unflinching Stories of Everyday Prison Life

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From the co-creators and co-hosts of the Peabody- and Pulitzer-nominated podcast comes this unflinching, illuminating view of prison life, as told by presently and formerly incarcerated people. The United States locks up more people per capita than any other nation in the world--600,000 each year and 2.3 million in total. The acclaimed podcast Ear Hustle, named after th From the co-creators and co-hosts of the Peabody- and Pulitzer-nominated podcast comes this unflinching, illuminating view of prison life, as told by presently and formerly incarcerated people. The United States locks up more people per capita than any other nation in the world--600,000 each year and 2.3 million in total. The acclaimed podcast Ear Hustle, named after the prison term for eavesdropping, gives voice to that ever-growing prison population. Co-created for the Radiotopia podcast network from PRX by visual artist Nigel Poor and inmate Earlonne Woods, who was serving thirty-one years to life before his sentence was commuted in 2018, Ear Hustle was launched in the basement media lab of California's San Quentin State Prison. As the first podcast created and produced entirely within prison, it has since been globally lauded for the rare access and perspective it contributes to the conversation about incarceration. Now, in their first book, Poor and Woods present unheard stories that delve deeper into the experiences of incarceration and share their personal paths to San Quentin as well as how they came to be co-creators. This unprecedented narrative, enhanced by forty original black-and-white illustrations, reveals the spectrum of humanity of those in prison and navigating post-incarceration. Bringing to the page the same insight, balance, and charismatic rapport that has distinguished their podcast, Poor and Woods illuminate the full--and often surprising--realities of prison life. With characteristic candor and humor, their portrayals include unexpected moments of self-discovery, unlikely alliances, and many ingenious work-arounds. One personal narrative at a time, framed by Poor's and Wood's distinct perspectives, This Is Ear Hustle tells the real lived experience of the criminal justice system.


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From the co-creators and co-hosts of the Peabody- and Pulitzer-nominated podcast comes this unflinching, illuminating view of prison life, as told by presently and formerly incarcerated people. The United States locks up more people per capita than any other nation in the world--600,000 each year and 2.3 million in total. The acclaimed podcast Ear Hustle, named after th From the co-creators and co-hosts of the Peabody- and Pulitzer-nominated podcast comes this unflinching, illuminating view of prison life, as told by presently and formerly incarcerated people. The United States locks up more people per capita than any other nation in the world--600,000 each year and 2.3 million in total. The acclaimed podcast Ear Hustle, named after the prison term for eavesdropping, gives voice to that ever-growing prison population. Co-created for the Radiotopia podcast network from PRX by visual artist Nigel Poor and inmate Earlonne Woods, who was serving thirty-one years to life before his sentence was commuted in 2018, Ear Hustle was launched in the basement media lab of California's San Quentin State Prison. As the first podcast created and produced entirely within prison, it has since been globally lauded for the rare access and perspective it contributes to the conversation about incarceration. Now, in their first book, Poor and Woods present unheard stories that delve deeper into the experiences of incarceration and share their personal paths to San Quentin as well as how they came to be co-creators. This unprecedented narrative, enhanced by forty original black-and-white illustrations, reveals the spectrum of humanity of those in prison and navigating post-incarceration. Bringing to the page the same insight, balance, and charismatic rapport that has distinguished their podcast, Poor and Woods illuminate the full--and often surprising--realities of prison life. With characteristic candor and humor, their portrayals include unexpected moments of self-discovery, unlikely alliances, and many ingenious work-arounds. One personal narrative at a time, framed by Poor's and Wood's distinct perspectives, This Is Ear Hustle tells the real lived experience of the criminal justice system.

30 review for This Is Ear Hustle: Unflinching Stories of Everyday Prison Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    I never write reviews for books because who am I to judge. But I had to make an exception here! I've been listening to Earhustle for years and love that this book gives listeners a glimpse into Earlonne and Nigel's stories, as well as the creation and development of the podcast, all while also reminding us why we love Earhustle in the first place: the men of San Quentin and their stories. Read this book, listen to the podcast, and let the (in) humanity and the struggle lead you to support much n I never write reviews for books because who am I to judge. But I had to make an exception here! I've been listening to Earhustle for years and love that this book gives listeners a glimpse into Earlonne and Nigel's stories, as well as the creation and development of the podcast, all while also reminding us why we love Earhustle in the first place: the men of San Quentin and their stories. Read this book, listen to the podcast, and let the (in) humanity and the struggle lead you to support much needed reform.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Erikka

    After five years of Ear Hustle, I feel like Nigel and Earlonne and the gang are like friends. Getting this deep dive into the show, the prisoners, their own relationship, and hearing more info on certain stories, I feel like I know them even better. I work for a nonprofit that seeks to end juvenile incarceration in all its forms. This podcast and this book have been so eye opening into why I do what I do. It humanizes the prisoners of San Quentin and makes you realize how much we ,in fact, dehum After five years of Ear Hustle, I feel like Nigel and Earlonne and the gang are like friends. Getting this deep dive into the show, the prisoners, their own relationship, and hearing more info on certain stories, I feel like I know them even better. I work for a nonprofit that seeks to end juvenile incarceration in all its forms. This podcast and this book have been so eye opening into why I do what I do. It humanizes the prisoners of San Quentin and makes you realize how much we ,in fact, dehumanize prisoners. It also helps to introduce concepts of restorative and transformative justice that are a much better option than incarceration could ever be. The psychological damage of imprisonment, esp solitary confinement, is insurmountable for many and can be permanent. Fortunately, Nigel and Earlonne give a voice to these issues and hopefully make more people realize that prisons are obsolete.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Traci Thomas

    Admittedly I don’t listen to this podcast. I found the book inconsistent. Some sections (mostly the interviews) were compelling but the banter between hosts was repetitive and boring. I’m curious about the show but mostly thought the book was fine.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Debbie Notkin

    I've been a fan of this podcast (on daily life in prisons and jails) since it started, and I'm a regular (tiny) donor to its ongoing work. So of course I wondered what the book could have that the podcast doesn't. Answer: a lot. For one thing, it gives a much clearer view into the relationship between Earlonne Woods (a Black man who started co-hosting when he had effectively a life sentence at San Quentin) and Nigel Poor (who was a White volunteer at the prison, specializing in visual art). The t I've been a fan of this podcast (on daily life in prisons and jails) since it started, and I'm a regular (tiny) donor to its ongoing work. So of course I wondered what the book could have that the podcast doesn't. Answer: a lot. For one thing, it gives a much clearer view into the relationship between Earlonne Woods (a Black man who started co-hosting when he had effectively a life sentence at San Quentin) and Nigel Poor (who was a White volunteer at the prison, specializing in visual art). The two of them have come to truly love each other (as Nigel says at the end, "not overfamiliarly," and that shines through the pages. Also, we get a detailed look into their early lives: both are interesting, but Earlonne's is less familiar to me, so I found it more compelling. We get some interviews that are more explicitly sexual than I think they would be likely to do on the show. We get a feeling for how the first year of the pandemic affected them. We get a detailed account of the stages of Earlonne's sentence commutation (which California Governor Jerry Brown signed in 2018) and what that meant to both authors. If you're not a podcast person, the book will give you a really good sense of what they do. If you are a podcast person, listen to the podcast (or some of it) first. And if you're an Ear Hustle devotee, don't believe anyone who tells you the book has nothing new to offer you.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jaybee

    I love the Ear Hustle podcast and was interested in some of the behind the scenes stories promised in the book, but the format didn’t work for me and much of what was in the book I felt like I already knew.

  6. 5 out of 5

    MsArdychan

    Please Note: I received an advance audiobook copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way. I have listened to the podcast of Ear Hustle (prison slang for gossip) for several years, and really appreciate what the podcast is trying to accomplish. The podcast is made inside San Quentin State Prison, in the San Francisco Bay Area. With raw language and topics ranging from food and music, to lockdowns to prison sex, Please Note: I received an advance audiobook copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way. I have listened to the podcast of Ear Hustle (prison slang for gossip) for several years, and really appreciate what the podcast is trying to accomplish. The podcast is made inside San Quentin State Prison, in the San Francisco Bay Area. With raw language and topics ranging from food and music, to lockdowns to prison sex, this is an authentic portrayal of prison life. It is it challenging to listen to at times, but it certainly opened my eyes as to the very human lives of those paying for their misdeeds. This is Ear Hustle is the story of how the podcast came into existence. It chronicles the lives of the two main creators of the podcast, artist Nigel Poor, and now former inmate Earlonne Woods. I liked this book because of the honestly of the creators. These are not saints, and they work hard to make sure that this is not a story filled with complaints or asking for pity. They are just showing us on the outside how prison affects not only the offender, but their families as well. But be warned: there is a lot of raw, explicit language and descriptions of violence in this book. If you have been a victim of a violent crime, I would think this might be a trigger, and you should not read it. But for others, I highly recommend this book. Read my complete review on my blog: www.ponderingtheprose.blogspot.com

  7. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    As a faithful listener of the Ear Hustle podcast from way back, I was excited to read this book. Ear Hustle has done so much to change and shape my view of incarcerated people and the penal system - I recommend it to everyone! I feel similarly about this book. Though (as a long-time listener) there was a lot of content I was already familiar with, I really enjoyed the deeper look into Earlonne’s personal story, and he and Nigel’s relationship. And I think the book is a great place for someone ne As a faithful listener of the Ear Hustle podcast from way back, I was excited to read this book. Ear Hustle has done so much to change and shape my view of incarcerated people and the penal system - I recommend it to everyone! I feel similarly about this book. Though (as a long-time listener) there was a lot of content I was already familiar with, I really enjoyed the deeper look into Earlonne’s personal story, and he and Nigel’s relationship. And I think the book is a great place for someone new to the Ear Hustle world to start. I highly recommend the audiobook. They’ve put together a really special experience, and I think it highlights what they do best - they are podcasters, after all. I am so proud of all Earlonne, Nigel and their team have accomplished and count myself lucky to get to learn from them.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    We’ve all heard how unjust the justice system is, but this book really illustrates the various ways this is true. I learned a lot about California’s three strikes law. In the 9 days it took me to read this book, I was amazed at how many times I heard the word “prison” come up in the news. As expected, I now have a completely different image in my mind.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader. This Is Ear Hustle relates some of the daily realities and the background stories of inmates in San Quentin written by the duo responsible for the podcast, Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods. Due out 12th Oct 2021 from Crown Publishing, it's 304 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links throughout. I've really become Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader. This Is Ear Hustle relates some of the daily realities and the background stories of inmates in San Quentin written by the duo responsible for the podcast, Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods. Due out 12th Oct 2021 from Crown Publishing, it's 304 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately; it makes it so easy to find information with the search function. I was familiar with the Ear Hustle podcast, but not a regular listener, and even so, I found myself immediately drawn in and invested in the characters and stories related here. The backgrounds are varied, as are the outlooks and outcomes for the men, but they're all absolutely authentic and often so sad. There's a lot of humor and hope as well, so it's not only bleak and dark, but it was really reading about the lies and distortions from the court system and the law officers that felt like a gut punch to me. I spent much of this read really viscerally angry. I think it's an important book, but it wasn't always a fun read. Five stars. This is a superlative book and highly recommended for library and school acquisition, as a support/resource text for social sciences, and for readers of nonfiction. Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    The prison stories were interesting. The interactions between Nigel and Earlonne were a bit too cutesy, especially towards the end. The audio book played like a podcast sequence which was fine.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Erik Sapp

    This review is of the audiobook version. I have been listening to the Ear Hustle podcast for a few years, so was really excited for this book. I was even more excited when I realized it is read by Nigel and Earlonne. I was not disappointed. This book is like listening to an extended podcast. The hosts have their normal, incredible rapport that makes the podcast fun, entertaining, and educational. It also gives a lot of background that gives context (how Earlonne ended up in prison, how Nigel end This review is of the audiobook version. I have been listening to the Ear Hustle podcast for a few years, so was really excited for this book. I was even more excited when I realized it is read by Nigel and Earlonne. I was not disappointed. This book is like listening to an extended podcast. The hosts have their normal, incredible rapport that makes the podcast fun, entertaining, and educational. It also gives a lot of background that gives context (how Earlonne ended up in prison, how Nigel ended up volunteering at San Quentin, how the podcast got going). There are some repeats from podcast episodes, which are listed in the afterword. Those flashbacks do not feel like filler, but add to the story they are telling. Having said that, this book is very specialized. Some familiarity with the podcast would probably help in understanding the book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    If I hadn't been an avid fan of the podcast already, I might give this more stars. The best part was the first few chapters when Earlonne and Nigel tell their backstories - something they rarely do on the podcast. Otherwise, this book is at least half greatest hits episodes with some behind-the-scenes details. If you've never listened to the podcast, I think the podcast is better. Go listen to it instead (starting with season 1, episode 1). Granted, I listened to the audiobook, but I felt that I If I hadn't been an avid fan of the podcast already, I might give this more stars. The best part was the first few chapters when Earlonne and Nigel tell their backstories - something they rarely do on the podcast. Otherwise, this book is at least half greatest hits episodes with some behind-the-scenes details. If you've never listened to the podcast, I think the podcast is better. Go listen to it instead (starting with season 1, episode 1). Granted, I listened to the audiobook, but I felt that I missed out on the excellent sound design of the podcast. Also, some parts of the book are read by voice actors which feels a bit fake compared to the real interviews featured on the podcast. I wish they'd just interpolated excepts from the podcast instead. I enjoyed hearing from Nigel and Earlonne again, though, and was glad I listened to this.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bethany Divakaran

    This book was interesting and authentic. It made me smile and it made me tear-up. The authors speak about the formation of the Ear Hustle podcast, their relationship as unlikely co-hosts, the stories of the people they've met in and outside of prison, and the challenges they've faced in doing their work. I have learned a lot in reading (and listening to the podcast) about the experiences of those incarcerated or impacted by the criminal justice system. Nigel and Earlonne stayed true to their goa This book was interesting and authentic. It made me smile and it made me tear-up. The authors speak about the formation of the Ear Hustle podcast, their relationship as unlikely co-hosts, the stories of the people they've met in and outside of prison, and the challenges they've faced in doing their work. I have learned a lot in reading (and listening to the podcast) about the experiences of those incarcerated or impacted by the criminal justice system. Nigel and Earlonne stayed true to their goals of telling these stories with authenticity and compassion, leaning into the commonalities humans have across place and experiences.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Candace Rollins

    I think this book's greatest achievement is presenting the humanity of the those incarcerated. The book makes no excuse for the crimes, but does expose both the situation that lead to the crimes, the deep remorse and shame of some of the inmates and the systems in place that occasionally aide the convict but often hinder or even hurt them. As the narrator E continues his work on the three strikes law, I'd love for him to go even further and try to abolish incarceration for non-violent criminals I think this book's greatest achievement is presenting the humanity of the those incarcerated. The book makes no excuse for the crimes, but does expose both the situation that lead to the crimes, the deep remorse and shame of some of the inmates and the systems in place that occasionally aide the convict but often hinder or even hurt them. As the narrator E continues his work on the three strikes law, I'd love for him to go even further and try to abolish incarceration for non-violent criminals (ankle bracelet monitoring is cheaper, keeps families intact and solvent among other things).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    I'm a HUGE fan of the Ear Hustle podcast and have been recommending it to people ever since I found it three or four years ago. There is just no way that you won't learn something about incarcerated people (and the rest of us) by listening. I was afraid I would be somewhat disappointed by the book; how could I not when I was so hyped on the podcast?? I was wrong - the book IS amazing! I think I would recommend listening to at least a few of the podcast episodes first so you can get to know Earlo I'm a HUGE fan of the Ear Hustle podcast and have been recommending it to people ever since I found it three or four years ago. There is just no way that you won't learn something about incarcerated people (and the rest of us) by listening. I was afraid I would be somewhat disappointed by the book; how could I not when I was so hyped on the podcast?? I was wrong - the book IS amazing! I think I would recommend listening to at least a few of the podcast episodes first so you can get to know Earlonne and Nigel.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rachel G

    I’ve been a fan of the pod since Day 1, so this was a great combo of two of my favorite things - books and podcasts. Having listened to all of the episodes, some of the book’s contents were very familiar to me, but I really enjoyed it. The chapter called Three Strikers was particularly eye-opening. Strong recommendation, particularly if you have an interest in criminal justice, reform, and penal institutions.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Yolanda

    I’ve followed the podcast Ear Hustle for years and I loved it, and listening to this book was a great extension of the show. I liked learning more about the co-hosts Nigel and Earlonne, especially the time leading up to and just after Earlonne’s release. These two reveal everything, even things you wouldn’t dare ask, about prison life, in a real and often funny way. I hope they keep hustlin’ for a long time.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Wintheiser

    This was an excellent book! I had never heard of their podcast, but am now a listener. I’m so grateful to the authors for sharing their stories. There’s so much more to people that are incarcerated than the crimes they are there for. Thank you for bringing their stories to us. The social justice issues are brought forth clearly and I hope that the groups fighting for change will be able to bring about equity and reform. Such a great book that will stick with me for awhile!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Zach

    I’ve been obsessed with the Ear Hustle podcast for years and it’s revolutionized my understanding of the justice process, and even how I vote in elections. Needless to say, I was ecstatic about the book. I wasn’t sure what Nyge and Earlonne would talk about that I hadn’t already heard in the podcast, but they delivered! Loved this and hope there’s more in the future!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Taylor

    Stories that are so well told, you can't hear this anywhere else besides Ear Hustle. I love that Nigel and Earlonne dig into the good and the bad, telling a real, whole story. There are so many things I did not know about the prison system and prison life. I especially appreciated the chapter about the Three Strikes Law, it's history, and how senseless it is. Stories that are so well told, you can't hear this anywhere else besides Ear Hustle. I love that Nigel and Earlonne dig into the good and the bad, telling a real, whole story. There are so many things I did not know about the prison system and prison life. I especially appreciated the chapter about the Three Strikes Law, it's history, and how senseless it is.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    This gathers together excerpts from Ear Hustle, adds background - more about the hosts, including Earlonne Woods' history, some behind the scenes decision making, and a covid update. It starts right out with the Ear Hustle theme music so feels immediately familiar. I love the relationship between the hosts - it's just wonderful. This gathers together excerpts from Ear Hustle, adds background - more about the hosts, including Earlonne Woods' history, some behind the scenes decision making, and a covid update. It starts right out with the Ear Hustle theme music so feels immediately familiar. I love the relationship between the hosts - it's just wonderful.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cymiki

    Ear Hustle is a podcast that has been in production for 8 years now and is an eye-opening look at those who are incarcerated in San Quentin Prison. Told with compassion the stories offer a more dimensional life. So many prisoners were sentenced as youth and so many came from broken homes. The book picks up some of the podcast stories and includes new material, too.

  23. 5 out of 5

    V

    3.5* Thanks to the publisher and authors for the free ARC I got in a GR giveaway. This book is very much like the podcast in the way the stories are told. More background on the people involved--the hosts and the interviewees--than you get in the podcast. However, there is quite a lot of podcast transcript that feels redundant to a reader who is also a listener.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Harless-Reed

    Thank you I really enjoyed this book. I have been in such a reading slump for the last year. This pandemic has caused an underlying worry that usually prevents me from being able to focus on reading. However, I was able to end each day with Ear Hustle. I could hear the voices of E and Nigel as if they were reading to me. I can’t wait to see what you be do next!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Hill

    I’m a huge fan of the podcast and I really enjoyed this book. Some of the book duplicated episodes of the podcast, but if you can get beyond that, it’s such a compelling read. I especially loved the chapter about Earlonne’s commutation.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Johnson

    Ear Hustle is one of my favorite podcasts ever! This book gave me a deeper look into each of the host's lives, how they pull stories from people and the amazing bond they have. If you love the podcast, you will love the book. Ear Hustle is one of my favorite podcasts ever! This book gave me a deeper look into each of the host's lives, how they pull stories from people and the amazing bond they have. If you love the podcast, you will love the book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    as a long time listener of the podcast, I couldn’t get my hands on this fast enough

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brian Kosier

    Loved it. I am an avid Ear Hustle podcast listener, and I loved the even deeper dive into the lives of both men and women before, during and after incarceration.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nanette

    Listen to the audiobook if you can—it’s fantastic.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    I've been listening to Ear Hustle from the beginning, and it was nice to get an inside scoop and learn more about the development of the show. I've been listening to Ear Hustle from the beginning, and it was nice to get an inside scoop and learn more about the development of the show.

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