BOOK CORNER: Former prison inmate writes about his life behind bars

By Marissa Wells
Contributing Writer
“What Kind of Bird Can’t Fly: A Memoir of Resilience and Resurrection,” by Dorsey Nunn with Lee Romney, is a new memoir that tells the compelling life journey of Nunn and his leadership in the fight for the full restoration of civil and human rights for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people and their families.
Nunn began writing his memoir at the age of 68 and it took four years to complete. The idea to write the book came from reflections Nunn had surrounding how he wound up serving a life sentence at the age of 19 and the tortuous conditions he witnessed and endured as a prisoner.
“After I learned how to read in prison, I ultimately made a pledge to other prisoners to return to the community as an asset instead of a liability,” Nunn said. “Also, I committed to myself not to forget the people I left behind.”
“What Kind of Bird Can’t Fly” chronicles Nunn’s path from growing up in a disadvantaged neighborhood, to serving a 10-year sentence for murder during the 1970s, to co-founding the grassroots civil and human rights organization All of Us or None, and ultimately being honored with the White House Champion of Change Award.
The book is intended for a wide audience.
“I started out writing to one group and determined the change that I want to have happen requires that I build a ship and not just a boat,” Nunn said.
He said he hopes his book will give incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people opportunities instead of chances. “Failure is too often attributed to individual shortcomings and we lack the courage or wisdom to see that it could possibly be rooted in our lack of collective responsibility,” Nunn said.
Nunn began advocating for the rights of California prisoners and their families while incarcerated. He is known as the first formerly incarcerated director of the public interest law office in California, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.
He also has spearheaded groundbreaking initiatives, including Ban the Box laws, ending shackling of pregnant women, and major drug sentencing reforms. He is based in Oakland.

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