Real Men Wear Beige is the semi-memoir of a man who found himself – as ordinary people occasionally do – serving time in jail for a crime he did actually commit. Although this is most of the story of his journey through the jail and prison – and to a lesser degree the court – system, it is primarily devoted to the stories of the interesting people he met along the way.
While I really enjoyed this relatively-short book, I found that the author occasionally had to be taken with a grain of salt. He occasionally dallies in ranting about the injustices of the sentencing system, which I can’t help but feel comes from his own experience.
Donato is a kind of every man, the kind of person who never dreamed that they would be in jail, until it happened, leaving him to largely fend for himself and navigate a world full of strange, and irrational people, all the while keeping himself alive.
The author’s crime is unspectacular by any means, a relatively simple white collar crime, although he points out that there was quite a lot of publicity around it at the time. He is certainly not in the order of Lord Jeffrey Archer, whose famous fall from grace was recorded in his own set of prison diaries.
Putting that aside, he thankfully abandons the linear timeline approach to his writing, after giving enough background information to set up the story. Instead we are given some of the highlights and lowlights of the mostly very ordinary people you might meet behind bars. From an outside perspective, it is easy to see all criminals as being tarred with the same brush, with the only answer being bigger jails, more jail time, harsher conditions, without looking at what effect this is really having in society. Alfredano brings a human face to the people, and the fact that they are someone’s sons, fathers, brothers and so on.
A quick read, and very engaging.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.