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Kenneth E. Hartman

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Prison Memoir Wins 2010 Eric Hoffer Book Award

Lancaster, CA, June 15, 2010 --( The Eric Hoffer Book Award has named Mother California: A Story of Redemption Behind Bars by Kenneth E. Hartman (Atlas & Co. 2009) the 2010 winner in the memoir category.

“In this memoir, a magnificent inquiry into the human condition, a man serving a life sentence in the California prison system documents the brutality and inhumanity of life 'inside,' where criminals are victimized rather than rehabilitated, and chaos flowers among the despairing. Hartman, an eloquent, middle-aged prisoners convicted of murder at 19, tells a sad but unsentimental story; a rough childhood and a wish for invincibility fueled Hartman’s youth and downfall, but in the time since, he has married in prison, fathered a child, and currently works to improve the broken U.S. prison system. Hartman discovered his talent in a writing class, after having abandoned drugs; using it, he examines up close the 'mad, violent circus' of prison life, his place in it, and the fate of his fellow prisoners: “Under the big tend of this brutally unnatural environment, few of us ever take the frightening step of analyzing our deeper motives.” – Publishers’ Weekly

“I’m tremendously honored to win this award. I hope that more people will have the opportunity to understand the truth of our prison systems, and come to the necessary realization that reform is desperately needed,” Hartman said.

Kenneth E. Hartman has served more than 30 continuous years of a life without the possibility of parole sentence for killing a man in a drunken, drugged-up fistfight. He is the author of the memoir Mother California: A Story of Redemption Behind Bars, (Atlas & Co. 2009), winner of the 2010 Eric Hoffer Book Award for memoir and a silver medallist winner of the 2010 Nautilus Book Award. He has been published widely, including in the New York Times, the Long Beach Press-Telegram, the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Bakersfield Californian, writing about prison reform. His magazine articles have appeared in Notre Dame Magazine, Topic Magazine, the East Bay Monthly, Whole Life Times and Prison Life. His piece “Harder Time,” which appeared in California Lawyer, won a Maggie Award in 2005 for best-signed editorial. His essay “A Prisoner’s Purpose,” was a prize-winning finalist in the Templeton Foundation’s worldwide Power of Purpose contest in 2004. His piece in the respected academic publication The Prison Journal’s first quarter 2008 edition about the effect of supermax prisons on the consciousness of prisoners is now a part of the curricula of university criminology programs. “The Absent Voice of Prisoners,” appeared in the inaugural edition of J, the journal of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, addressing the need for the inclusion of prisoners’ voices in the process of prison reform. “The Other Death Penalty,” an essay that discusses the broader ramifications of the sentence of life without the possibility of parole, appeared in the Journal of Prisoners on Prisons (volume 18:1 & 2; 2009), published by the University of Ottawa Press, and served as the founding document of a grassroots effort by prisoners to abolish this form of the death penalty. His essay on spiritual growth “Seeking Peace” is in the book Serving Productive Time. Hartman’s work has also appeared on several influential websites, including The Huffington Post,,, and

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The award-winner can be reached at

The Eric Hoffer Project, which facilitates this annual award, is a volunteer organization dedicated to preserving the memory of the great American philosopher Eric Hoffer through helping independent writers, authors, and presses.

Previous winners of Eric Hoffer Book Awards include Steven T. Wax; Ariane Audoin-Dubreuil; Paul Cotinho, S.J.; Judith Kleinfeld, Ed.D.; and E.L. Doctorow & David Finn.

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Kenneth E. Hartman
661 726-5483

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