Deborah Jiang Stein is a national speaker, writer, and founder of The unPrison Project, a 501(c)3 nonprofit which serves to build public awareness about women and girls in prison and offers mentoring and life-skills programs for inmates.
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A deeply personal and inspiring memoir recounting one woman’s struggles—beginning with her birth in prison—to find self-acceptance
Prison Baby is a revised and substantially expanded version of Deborah Jiang Stein’s self-published memoir, Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus. Even at twelve years old, Deborah, the adopted daughter of a progressive Jewish couple in Seattle, felt like an outsider. Her mixed Asian features set her apart from her white, well-intentioned parents who evaded questions about her past. But when she discovered a letter revealing the truth of her prison birth to a heroin-addicted mother—and that she spent the first year of life in prison—Deborah spiraled into emotional lockdown. For years she turned to drugs, violence, and crime as a way to cope with her grief. Ultimately, Deborah overcame the stigma, shame, and secrecy of her birth, and found peace by helping others—proving that redemption and acceptance is possible even from the darkest corners.
“The ways this woman discovers herself, via the revelation of her birth mother and her reconciliation with her adoptive mother, show us how dramatically different worlds intersect, and why those intersections are so important to who we are.… A powerful story.” —Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black
“Deborah Jiang Stein has beaten the cycle of intergenerational incarceration, despite the odds against her—multiracial, born in a federal prison to a heroin-addicted mother. Her story offers hope to the possibility of personal transformation for anyone.” —Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking and Pulitzer Prize nominee
"A harrowing, heartfelt glittering diamond of a memoir that shows that being born in prison does not have to imprison the spirit. Gloriously alive and important." —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow
"Prison Baby, one woman's profound quest for family and identity, is also a soul stirring call to arms on behalf of incarcerated women and their children. It's a story of lost and found, conflict and peace, and proof that with love, forgiveness, and support, people really do change their lives." —Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow
"This book defines what it is to be American, a woman caught in the whirlwinds of change, who finds the strength in herself to confront the challenges and overcome them. Wonderful." —Jimmy Santiago Baca, author of A Place to Stand and American Book Award winner
“A compelling story of loss, addiction, and healing…told with grace and much heart.” —Heidi W. Durrow, New York Times best-selling author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
“At a time when more and more women are being incarcerated worldwide, Deborah Jiang Stein's story of the secrets and ignominy surrounding her prison birth gives readers a brave account of the backlash children and society encounter when families are torn apart by addiction, prison, and shame. More than anything, Deborah's book is a call for an open-eyed examination of our broken criminal justice system, and a heartfelt plea for more compassionate responses to poverty and mental illness.—Naseem Rakha, author of The Crying Tree
"A profoundly moving search for identify, Prison Baby is as inspiring as it is haunting. Deborah Jiang Stein’s bold, and intrepid honesty will speak to anyone who has struggled with grief, forgiveness, and finding their place in the world." —Katrina Kittle, author of The Blessings of the Animals
“Prison Baby is an emotionally charged, transformative story about one woman's search for her true origins. Candid and searing, Deborah Jiang Stein's memoir is a remarkable story about identity, lost and found—and about the author's journey to reclaim—and celebrate—that most primal of relationships, the one between mother and child. I dare you to read this book without crying.” —Mira Bartok, author of The Memory Palace
"Prison Baby hits all the emotions of the who, what, where, when and why's of adoption right on the head of the nail! Some real deep life stuff is in these pages. It stirs the soul. I can relate to being in a similar predicament where I didn't look like anyone in my family. If you want to know the truth about finding who you really are, this is the story! Adopted or not." —Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, adoptee and Founder of hip-hop group Run-DMC