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Author-activist Jan Smitowicz was arrested in 2010 after an illegal search and seizure, eventually spending two years in Illinois state prisons for marijuana. Rebel Hell: Disabled Vegan Goes to Prison is an enthralling, poignant, wildly creative, and startling narrative about his descent into the kaleidoscopic "Prison Vortex." In the foreword by Todd Shackelford, Ph.D., Psychology Department Chair at Michigan's Oakland University, he writes that Smitowicz's new book is "Beautifully crafted, outrageously candid, deeply empathic, and often uproariously funny . . . a remarkable story."

Written with unequaled stylistic flair, Smitowicz's Rebel Hell is a trailblazing addition to the great pantheon of socially relevant prison stories. The narrative is brimming with absurd barbarism and corruption. Like the underfed author's weight-plummet of 19 pounds in just 27 days. Like the rampant mistreatment of inmates' serious medical issues by sadistic guards and health care staff. And like the state's unbelievable offer to cut his sentence nearly in half - from seven years to four - if he paid a $25,000 "fine, allowing Smitowicz and his family to literally buy less prison time! Yet Rebel Hell's relentless, unabashed humor [humor that is darker than the Marlboro Man's coffee [and his lung cancer]] delivers terrific reprieve from the awful circumstances. Smitowicz also somehow manages to find great beauty "Inside the razor-wire fences." His lyrical descriptions of multi-seasonal landscapes and weather and the prisons' nonhuman residents are like vivid blooming flowers amid the drear-gray monotony of prison life. The memoir also shines much- needed light on the catastrophic Drug War and the innately undemocratic, racially biased nature of America's so-called Justice System. Ultimately, Rebel Hell coalesces into a disturbing microcosm of contemporary U.S. society-and an unforgettably original story.


"One hell of a writer."

- Derrick Jensen, award-winning author of Endgame and the graphic novel As the World Burns


As soon as I began reading Jan Smitowicz's memoir Rebel Hell: Disabled Vegan Goes to Prison, the word "Kafkaesque" began tumbling through my mind, a word that goes on to make frequent and justifiable appearances throughout the book. Smitowicz writes . . . in a way that will leave you feeling as he did [while incarcerated]: enraged, frustrated, and bemused.

Rebel Hell . . . is not just about one man's experiences; rather, it provides a peak into a fundamentally flawed and unjust industry that is kept aloft by a failed War on Drugs and that relies on the continued degradation and humiliation of inmates. (Anyone who still believes the prison-industrial complex cares a lick about rehabilitation should read this book.) That said, this tome is not all drear hopelessness . . . the author peppers bits of acerbic humor throughout as a kind of salve . . . further salve is offered via the innovative ways with which the author plays with traditional narrative forms, making the book’s style as creatively rebellious as the author . . . [his] memoir will keep you turning pages in wonder of what will happen next, of what he'll say next, and of what bureaucratic absurdity will manifest next.

- Kim Socha, Ph.D., author of Animal Liberation and Atheism: Dismantling the Procrustean Bed.

I simply couldn't put [this] book down! . . . Jan [is] brutally honest but deeply empathic . . . stunning . . . remarkable . . . engender[s] the sense that I now know this man on a thorough and deeply personal level. I suffered when he suffered. Feared when he feared. And I was overjoyed when he triumphed.

Despite the dreadful circumstances, Jan somehow unearths humor in the very darkest places-and does so throughout. On many occasions, I found myself laughing right alongside him amid some of the most outrageously frustrating situations imaginable.

Rebel Hell is a memoir-a story-like no other.

- From the foreword by Professor Todd Shackelford, Ph.D.