Told with equal parts raw honesty and unbridled compassion, Liza Jessie Peterson’s ALL DAY: A YEAR OF LOVE AND SURVIVAL TEACHING INCARCERATED KIDS AT RIKERS ISLAND recounts a year in her classroom at Island Academy, the high school for inmates detained at New York City’s Rikers Island. A poet and actress who had done occasional workshops at the correctional facility, Peterson was ill-prepared for a full-time stint teaching in the GED program for the incarcerated youths. For the first time faced with full days teaching the rambunctious, hyper, and fragile adolescent inmates, “Ms. P” comes to understand the essence of her predominantly Black and Latino students as she attempts not only to educate them, but to instill them with a sense of self-worth long stripped from their lives.
Praise for ALL DAY
"Liza Jessie Peterson’s ALL DAY is a must read for anyone who has ever cared about young people — and all people. Peterson brings amazing warmth, love and laughter to the devastating state of our juvenile justice system. In her able and gifted hands, we meet young people we will not soon forget. So glad this book is in the world."
—Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award winner for Brown Girl Dreaming and New York Times bestselling author of Another Brooklyn
"In a very real voice Liza Jessie Peterson recounts her days teaching young men imprisoned on Rikers Island awaiting trial. She switches between her street wise motherly voice to the voices and inner thoughts of young men struggling to maintain identity, dignity, credibility and sanity. Her interactions with them and them with each other are both heart wrenching and chilling at the same time. She peels back layer upon layer of these kids’ reality and exposes the humanity and vulnerability of young men who are scared, beautiful and dangerous. Liza also finds insights into herself about how to truly make a difference in the lives of children lost in the matrix."
—Danny Simmons, executive producer Def Poetry Jam
"This remarkable work of witness, testimony and empathy by Liza Jessie Peterson is a literary gift which could not be more precipitous. We seem to be reminded near weekly now of how disposable and hated young black men are by powerful sectors of this society. Peterson challenges us to see and feel beyond dangerous tabloid stereotypes. This feat she accomplishes with exquisitely flowing, pungent prose. ALL DAY is a generous bouquet of hip, laconic storytelling informed by big-sisterly-love and a compulsion for social justice."
—Greg Tate, author of Flyboy in the Buttermilk
"ALL DAY takes your breath even as it makes your heart beat faster with tension, fear, desperation and outrage. Liza Jessie Peterson’s writing is magical, poetic and haunting. Her words force us to live as she lived – as teacher/artist/warrior fighting with all of her talent and power to help incarcerated youth escape the cycle of poverty, pain and oppression to stay “alive and free.” Her lessons of liberation to her students become personal revelations that can help us move toward personal liberation."
—Jamal Joseph, professor at Columbia University, author of Tupak Shakur Legacy, Academy Award nominee, activist and former Rikers Island Inmate and Rikers High School Student
“Liza Peterson has spent most of her adult life working to undo the harm done by the prison system, working one-on-one from the bowels of the notorious Rikers Island. She has poured her heart and soul into guiding and loving these young people who, if directed, can make miraculous contributions to society. Read her journey and know that we as a society have to do better for these at risk children.”
— Russell Simmons, Entrepreneur/Activist
"ALL DAY is a gem, an honest look at our all too often forgotten youth. Liza Jessie Peterson takes us on this journey in a way that only she can, holding up a mirror and forcing us see what we are allowing our fellow citizens to go through. Her journey is as remarkable as the way in which this book was crafted. It's truly a must read."
— D. Watkins, author of The Cook Up
"Liza Jessie Peterson has captured the essence, the humor, the intellect and the psychology of the lives of young people (especially young Black men) trying to survive in the penal systems of America. I was captivated by the characters. I could see them, smell their musk, feel their attitudes and hear their voices to a point where I felt I knew them and would recognize any one of them if I bumped into them on the street. The stories, the characters, the talent, conflicts and the love are all there with a message: There must be a better way to raise our youth who have gone astray than to warehouse them in penal institutions. ALL DAY is a must-read for anyone who cares about children and believes in the possibilities that arise from affording them the opportunity to have the brightest of futures."
—Abiodun Oyewole, founding member of The Last Poets, author of Branches of the Tree of Life