In her emotionally startling memoir, criminal justice reform activist Donna Hylton takes readers from humanity's dark evils to its shining inspirations. And the two exist opposite where most people expect them to thrive.
The first half of Hylton's story is heartbreaking and difficult to consume. There is a complete lack of love and safety in her life: an unstable mother who sells Hylton as a young girl; adoptive parents who abuse her; people who violate her trust, raping her body and soul. The realization that such horrors can and do happen in the United States is alarming and unsettling. But A Little Piece of Light shines a brilliant beam directly on them.
As a result of her tumultuous youth, a 19-year-old Hylton winds up in the middle of a kidnapping that ends in murder. A jury convicts her for her part in the crimes, and she's sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. But behind the barbed-wire fences and cinderblock walls of the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York, she finds the family she's so desperately desired. Caring for a fellow inmate with HIV, creating a program to counsel and educate prisoners about AIDS and participating in a domestic violence group, Hylton finds meaning in her life. The compassion and kindness of those around her allow Hylton to blossom and realize her potential.
A Little Piece of Light is a big reminder of how people share much more in common than not. Even more importantly, it's a beacon capable of leading others out of the darkness that Hylton endured. --Jen Forbus, freelancer