Fighting Time is a brave and necessary book. It is a book that pushes the reader beyond thin and familiar abstractions about social justice and systemic oppression. In this book, Dr. Amy Banks and Mr. Isaac Knapper put flesh and bone and spirit onto institutional practices and social behaviors designed to lock inequalities in place, thus perpetuating the chronic disconnections that corrode the human spirit. Through her expertise as a trauma psychiatrist with deep expertise in human neurobiology, Dr. Banks invites the reader to join her in each aching step of her grief journey. Mr. Knapper invites the reader to look into his eyes, to see the soul of a man who fights to protect and serve those whom he loves – even when all he has is a broken hand. Together, they illuminate how “murder changes the story of who you are and what you can expect of life.”
Fighting Time transforms stories of grace and grief into a palpable experience. The impact of grief on the individual families and on the culture as a whole is made plain. Verbatim transcriptions of the judicial injustice illustrate how systems serve up grief word by dehumanizing word. Whether cast as victim or perpetrator, to be entrapped in a justice-denying system is to be susceptible to soul-scarring abuse and humiliation. That the Angola prison system has its own zip code is a poignant reminder that location is a robust predictor of viability on any societal measure of well-being. Banks offers the reader a glimpse into the life of a White, upper middle class family in bucolic Maine where education is the portal to infinite opportunity. In contrast, Knapper opens the doors to the public housing projects of New Orleans, where the contours of family love and expectation are shaped by the brutal vulnerabilities of everyday survival. In sum, the reader comes to see how “zip code” provides differential access to dignity, mattering, and belonging.
There are some books that make it impossible to “not know.” Fighting Time is such a book. One enters into the book and is confronted with questions that can only be answered by radical engagement with the life of those we call Other and by confronting the illusions and denials that comprise what is called Self. The reward is a renewed claim on human dignity, a strengthened commitment to social justice, and perhaps a revisioning of human possibility.