Quan writes that he fired John Mark, which Justyce probably already knows. Adrienne is his lawyer now, though he feels weird calling her by her first name. In any case, she came in to talk today and she asked questions no one has ever asked Quan before. She seemed to believe him, which was kind of uncomfortable. Quan didn’t realize how different it would be to talk to someone who wants to keep him out of prison. Now, he realizes that he’s never had an attorney who wants to see him free.
As Quan lays out the differences between Attorney Friedman and his previous lawyers, he emphasizes that no other lawyers have believed him or wanted to keep him out of prison. With this, the book suggests that the justice system is designed to put kids like Quan in prison, rather than keep them out of it. In other words, it gestures to an entire system that’s stacked against Quan—showing again that Quan isn’t an anomaly.
Quan has been thinking about all the guys he’s met who have gone away for a long time. They never really talked about their problems, but they all came from messed up homes and people expected them to mess up. None of that’s an excuse, but it’s really different having people around who believe that Quan is a good person.
Here, Quan succinctly lays out that what lands kids in trouble isn’t just the color of their skin. Rather, it’s that they grow up in poverty and surrounded by violence, while also lacking supportive parents or mentors. It makes a world of difference for Quan to have people who want to see him do well—but since he hasn’t had that kind of support in a long time, it’s uncomfortable.
At the end of their meeting, Adrienne shocked Quan by saying that they all want to see him reintegrate into society and contribute to bettering the world. Quan wonders if he can integrate—and he doesn’t know what he has to contribute. He’s tried to be good, though he stopped caring when he was about 15.
Adrienne clearly has high hopes for Quan if she’s talking about him contributing to making the world a better place. But to Quan, this seems like an impossibly high standard when he’s been told for the last several years that he’s a career criminal with nothing to offer.
Looking back now, Quan sees that so many kids who wind up incarcerated want to do the right thing and be successful. But there’s so much else to contend with. There’s a new kid on the cellblock, a Latino boy named Berto. He’s in for a murder charge, too. He was a good kid, but something happened to his family and he went looking for a new one. Other guys have experienced the exact same thing. It comes down to guys having to find their own families out of desperation.
In this passage, Quan makes it clear that even more than the poverty and violence, what condemns kids to lives of crime is the lack of familial support. When kids like Quan and Trey have imprisoned fathers, dismissive mothers, and men like Dwight in their lives, it’s no wonder they look for family elsewhere. But the gangs that these young men find can’t really fill these gaps, due to the toxic loyalty the gangs require.
Quan wonders what will happen if he can’t escape this. He might disappoint everyone helping him now and he has no idea what he’d do if he gets out of prison. He hates that he’s even thinking about what life might be like on the outside. This might not work out—and what happens then if he gets locked up for life? He’s not sure he’ll be able to deal with it.
In this passage, Quan begins to look more like the people-pleasing kid he was years ago who proudly brought home his math test. He wants to make others proud of him—but unlike back then, he doesn’t have the confidence in his abilities to do so. And it’s possibly dangerous to hope that he’ll get out of prison, given that the criminal justice system appears stacked against him.