Becoming Ms. Burton

From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women

Winner of the prestigious NAACP Image Award, a uniquely American story of trauma, incarceration, and “the breathtaking resilience of the human spirit” (Michelle Alexander)

“Susan Burton is a national treasure . . . her life story is testimony to the human capacity for resilience and recovery . . . a stunning memoir.” —Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times

Widely hailed as a stunning memoir, Becoming Ms. Burton is the remarkable life story of the renowned activist Susan Burton.

In this “stirring and moving tour-de-force” (John Legend), Susan Burton movingly recounts her own journey through the criminal justice system and her transformation into a life of advocacy. After a childhood of immense pain, poverty, and abuse in Los Angeles, the tragic loss of her son led her into addiction, which in turn led to arrests and incarceration. During the War on Drugs, Burton was arrested and would cycle in and out of prison for more than fifteen years. When, by chance, she finally received treatment, her political awakening began and she became a powerful advocate for “a more humane justice system guided by compassion and dignity” (Booklist, starred review). Her award-winning organization, A New Way of Life, has transformed the lives of more than one thousand formerly incarcerated women and is an international model for a less punitive and more effective approach to rehabilitation and reentry.

Winner of an NAACP Image Award and named a “Best Book of 2017” by the Chicago Public Library, here is an unforgettable book about “the breathtaking resilience of the human spirit” (Michelle Alexander).

Praise

“Valuable . . . [like Michelle] Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Nell Bernstein’s Burning Down the House, and Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. But rarely has such a powerful, personal perspective been made available to us. . . . Our understanding of the criminal justice system is immeasurably strengthened by Susan Burton’s fierce, compassionate, and expressive voice.”
Los Angeles Review of Books
“Susan Burton’s life and work are a testament to the power of second chances and the impact one person can have on the lives of others. Her book is a stirring and moving tour-de-force—a beautiful inspiration for all of us to continue to fight for justice.”
—John Legend, actor, singer, and songwriter
“Susan’s life story is one our nation desperately needs to hear and understand. This is a story about personal transformation and collective power. It is about one woman’s journey to freedom, but it will help free us all.”
—Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow
“For almost two decades Susan Burton has been a trailblazing advocate for ending mass incarceration, especially as it relates to poor women of color. Becoming Ms. Burton details her remarkable personal transformation as well as the larger structural changes this country must make in order to achieve racial and economic justice. It is essential reading for anyone who cares about these issues.”
—Daryl V. Atkinson, civil and human rights advocate, lawyer, and member of the Leadership Council of the Formerly Incarcerated Convicted People and Families Movement
“An amazing story.”
—Trevor Noah on The Daily Show
“Susan Burton is someone who inspires while she educates. Her powerful and compelling memoir is an unforgettable journey and also an extraordinary light for all who are looking for answers on how we must recover, restore, and redeem those who have been incarcerated. This is a must-read.”
—Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy
Becoming Ms. Burton eloquently shows why the voices of formerly incarcerated women must be at the center of efforts to reconstruct the criminal legal system. Too often this nation criminalizes the trauma of black women; Susan Burton exposes this terrible truth by sharing her astounding story of redemption. This is critical reading for champions of justice everywhere.”
—Monique W. Morris, author of Pushout
“Susan Burton is an angel among us. Her journey is a story of courage, compassion, and conviction. At turns harrowing and inspiring, Becoming Ms. Burton provides a valuable new perspective on the consequences of mass incarceration.”
—Howard Schultz, executive chairman, Starbucks Coffee Company

News and Reviews

Over 6,000 Copies of Becoming Ms. Burton Distributed to Women in Prisons and Jails Across the Country

As part of its on-going effort to get books into the hands of “intellectually redlined audiences,” The New Press has raised funds for and organized the distr

Becoming Ms. Burton in Prisons and Jails, Wins Multiple Awards

With major philanthropic support, The New Press has undertaken a collaborative effort with the re-entry program created and run by Susan Burton to place over

Los Angeles Review of Books

“Valuable… [like Michelle] Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Nell Bernstein’s Burning Down the House, and Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy.

Susan Burton Featured as Starbucks "Upstander"

Susan Burton, founder of A New Way of Life Re-Entry Project and author of the forthcoming book