Happy Five Month-a-versary to This Life

Today we’re wishing This Life a happy five month-a-versary! This debut novel by Quntos KunQuest—an inmate at Angola, the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary—has a unique voice rooted in hiphop and marked by the meaning of a life spent behind bars. It explores the intricate relationships formed within the prison system, with fellow inmates, potential mentors, and ultimately with one’s self. In the five months since its publication, This Life has garnered wide-ranging praise, from the literary and hiphop communities alike. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite features of This Life below.

Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review

“KunQuest’s searing debut depicts a man’s unrelentingly brutal life in the U.S. prison system. . . . Using an effective experimental combination of prose and rap lyrics, KunQuest brilliantly captures the cadence and rhythm of the prison. Confident and unrelenting, this one hits hard.”

Kirkus Review

“The narrative roams among the characters in a close third-person point of view that creates a widescreen vision of the claustrophobic life behind bars. Readers will learn about the history of Angola, the daily grind of life in the different cell blocks (each with their own levels of freedom), and the difficulty of picking vegetables on the prison’s farm, and they will be treated to pages and pages of blistering rap lyrics. The lyrics aren’t about showing off; the rapping is necessary for these characters to hold on to their souls. . . . An effective philosophical novel that uses hip-hop to tell a story of prison life and how rhyme can lead to redemption.”

Booklist Review

“Through the unique perspectives of his characters, KunQuest offers a full and precise portrait of prison life, from daily mundane rituals to the dynamics of relationships, philosophical musings, legal pitfalls, and the psychological turmoil experienced by individuals imprisoned for life.”

The New Yorker Review

“Vital, inventive. . . I thought it was brilliant and original. It was unlike anything that I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a good bit of work that’s either set in prisons or about the subject of incarceration.”

Southern Review of Books Review

“Fragmented. Staccato. It has a beat. I didn’t so much read this book as listen to it. This Life is aural. . . . [KunQuest’s] novel asks us to listen, and poses the question, What is an incarcerated life worth? This Life, it turns out, is worth quite a lot.”

The Hype Magazine Review

“Told as only someone on the inside can and written with such cinematic detail that you are transported into a different space and there’s an emotional connection made with the characters. While the storyline may not be for everyone, if you are a fan of the craft of storytelling then This Life is a must have and Quntos KunQuest is one to watch.”

Full Stop Review

“Despite the confinements in which the words of This Life came together, the language doesn’t feel locked up: the spirit is high, it flows back and forth and resonates, words shift on the page, tightly packed with an intensity that match the severity of the punishment under which they were written. The words, confined to the page, not only find space, they make it. Everything moves freely. . . This Life was an enjoyable read, mostly because it was filled with hope, idealism, sincerity, and learning.” 

LitHub Featured Essay by Quntos KunQuest

“But, you don’t stop being a man because a legislative body votes that you aren’t, or chooses to no longer acknowledge that you are.” 

Bomb Magazine Interview

“What ultimately happens to young Black men who become statistics early in life? This Life has become my testament to their lot. An account of what should be obvious. As long as there is breath in your body, you keep on living. You keep dreaming and pursuing your own interpretation of happiness, seeking that fulfillment.” 

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