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Joshua Elyashiv
Privilege Lost
Many nice young upper-middle class white boys have dreamed about being the ultimate bad-ass. Few have been forced to prove it. For straight-A student and suburban Jewish boy Joshua Elyashiv, the dream of being tough and invincible, like his heroes Jason Bourne and Bruce Lee to name just a few, was so overwhelming that he convinced his parents to put him through military school where he became a decorated martial arts pro. Then, through a fluke chain of events that Joshua never could have predicted, he was arrested and sentenced to 18 months in prison for a clerical error. After a brutal confrontation with a violent guard, the sentence was extended to five years, hard time. Worst of all, his father cut off all contact. For five relentless years, Joshua was forced to defend himself against some of the toughest, most ruthless men in the world. Incredibly, he survived-and never gave up the desperate fight to prove to his father that he was innocent. Even more incredibly, along the way, Joshua learned the true meaning of strength-inner and spiritual-and discovered that empathy, compassion, and knowing when to walk away from a conflict is the purest form of strength. PRIVILEGE LOST is the true first-hand account of an "everyday nice guy" who had to fight for his life among some of the most violent and dangerous men alive, in some of the grimmest cages in the world. This gripping memoir explores the horrific violence he endured, traversing the bridge between adrenaline-pumping life and death moments and those deeply introspective agonies where Joshua came face to face with the reality behind his fantasies. Along the way, he learned that true kindness can come from the most broken souls, and that so much of what we call justice is really just smoke and mirrors to protect those with power and privilege. With humor and pathos, PRIVILEGE LOST looks across economic, cultural, racial, and religious boundaries with wide open eyes, confronting the harsh realities of a criminal justice system in deep need of reform.
In this heated and pulsating memoir, Elyashiv recounts his five-year imprisonment for conspiracy to commit fraud—a RICO conviction, he reports, that came without evidence that he had actually committed a crime. "The reason the feds prevail [in RICO cases] is because they have created a law that eliminates the burden of proof," he writes, while painting a picture of being targeted by the vengeful husband of a woman with whom he had “a fleeting affair.” Describing being “beaten to a pulp, even tortured” and wondering “why … won’t they just kill me?” while enduring solitary confinement, Elyashiv laments how someone like him, an educated and upright man from a law-abiding Jewish family, could wind up in the filth and stench of prison life, where one either dies prey or lives a predator. He recounts the move from jail to Century Correctional Facility, where he befriends and defies the worst of inmates, and gradually drifting away from his principles.

Elyashiv’s account alarms as he describes being grouped with serial killers, rapists, and others despite being charged with a “conspiracy to commit” a fraud that hardly threatens humanity. Witnessing firsthand the maltreatment from both inmates and authorities, the abuse of power of officers, and the normalcy of violence breeding further violence, Elyashiv asks an urgent question: "Wasn’t prison supposed to be a place where criminals were reformed?"

The narrative seamlessly transitions between the intense, adrenaline-fueled conflicts—combat with the head of a criminal organization and a suicidal plea for mercy killing to a psychopath, among many others—and soul-searching reflections of survival within the harsh confines of the penal system. Life seemingly stopped for five years for Elyashiv, but there are certainly hard-earned lessons from the unexpected camaraderie formed and unresolved childhood and familial issues finally confronted, making up half the bulk of this book. The narrative occasionally lingers in explicit depiction of brutal prison life that readers may find mentally disturbing, but it serves as a raw and dogged testament to human resilience.

Takeaway: Unfiltered, outraged account of survival in a harsh American prison.

Comparable Titles: Anthony Ray Hinton's The Sun Does Shine, Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A