Chapter 1 covers Pete O’Neal’s life from childhood to young adulthood. Pete describes his family life—his sometimes violent father, his nurturing mother, and his grandmother. He describes his first arrest at age eleven and the racist language and physical intimidation of the policeman who interrogated him. He explains how the night life on Kansas City’s 12th Street both frightened and attracted him because of the admiration paid to its successful hustlers. Pete fails to socially adjust to racially integrated high school. After more scrapes with the law, he joins the Navy to avoid detention, only to be dishonorably discharged after fighting with fellow seamen and violating orders. He ends up in Soledad Prison where he applies himself to the education program it offers and achieves a sense of accomplishment by winning the Toastmaster International writing and speaking competition.
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