Up On Game: From Robbing Banks to Stacking Bitcoin

Richard Stanley
Melrose & Main Publishing (2018)
ISBN 9781732141711
Reviewed by Araceli Noriega for Reader Views (12/18)

“Up On Game: From Robbing Banks to Stacking Bitcoin” by Richard Stanley is a memoir about a man who grew up in an impoverished community and went on to live in wealth and privilege outside of said community as an adult. The author shares selected stories of his youth when he lived with his family in a neighborhood largely targeted by the local police, especially the youth and minority families. He then describes at length, what his stay in the California correctional system was like as a young man. The book dedicates the last 30 pages to the author’s life after prison.

I think the author is very effective sharing his version of events from childhood to the present. He writes as honestly as possible, with a unique perspective, and passionate tone. Readers will know what he truly feels and thinks throughout the book.

The author is not an experienced writer, conventionally speaking. However, that doesn’t necessarily interfere with the content. There are only a few places where the narrative seems to transition awkwardly from one topic to another. The language used in this book is honest and perhaps will be offensive to some readers in a few places. However, as this is it a memoir about the author’s experiences, it only makes sense to keep the raw language and explicit situations described.

This book is written for anyone interested in learning about how a capitalistic value system can affect a young person’s perception about what it means to be successful. Audiences interested in what prison life is like for many white men in the U.S. will also find this book informative.

I am personally familiar with several of the themes covered in this memoir (poverty, racism, classism, the San Diego community, cholo life and culture) and I definitely had strong feelings as I read this memoir. My favorite part of this book was in the beginning when the author talks about what his family was like and how they treated each other. My second favorite part was when the book finally ended, as there were too many points where I was disheartened at the clear exploitation of racial privilege on behalf of the author. While it is evident that there are systemic barriers in place to ensure that men like Mr. Stanley always live in poverty, I equally believe that there was a lack of personal responsibility for the consequences of his actions.

I recommend this book to anyone interested about prison life in the U.S. from a heteronormative perspective. Many of the systemic problems within the prison system are described in this memoir. This book is also recommended to readers interested in what life was like for a “latchkey kid” in the 90s.

Richard Stanley’s memoir “Up On Game: From Robbing Banks to Stacking Bitcoin” is a quick and raw read largely dedicated to life in the California correctional system. Readers will see a man who regularly looks for an opportunity to survive despite the abundance of hopelessness and injustice. Unexpectedly, the writer only thinly disguises certain experiences as true accounts at different points of the story. Readers may ask themselves, “For what reason?” Perhaps he is protecting loved ones? Or himself. Or maybe he just wants to keep his audience guessing, and therefore entertained. Still, Mr. Stanley does what so many of us only dream of doing—he tells his story and he makes himself vulnerable regardless of the judgments that complete strangers will undoubtedly feel entitled to make about him. One can only respect and honor such courage.