This is not your run-of-the-mill, tedious prison story where violent acts are described, one after another, merely for shock value. Nor is it a sugary feel-good story that promises a happy ending through personal transformation.
Baca describes his childhood in an orphanage, his introduction to drug dealing, and his time in prison. While being locked up, he considers religion but instead discovers his voice through language, letters, and poetry.
The writing in A Place to Stand is excellent. Baca has an ear for language and writes prose like a poet. The prison scenes — murder, rape — are grisly but not gratuitous. The writing is accessible but does not pander. I’m pretty sure ninth grade Latino boys will connect with Baca’s experience and want to read more of his work.