The author Alex Wheatle grew up in a children’s home and went to prison after taking part in the Brixton riots in 1981. While serving his sentence, a cellmate advised Wheatle to start reading books.

“James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and the poetry of Langston Hughes – that informed me greatly,” says Wheatle in this clip from BBC Culture’s Textual Healing event at the 2019 Hay Festival. “So when I left I came out a much more educated man than I was when I was first sentenced.”

His first book, Brixton Rock, was published in 1999. In the clip, Wheatle explains how reading affirmed his belief in humanity – and helped him see that he wasn’t alone.

Press the play button above to watch the video.

Textual Healing: Can Reading Change Lives? airs on BBC World News at 17:30 GMT and 22:30 GMT on Saturday 13 July 2019; at 04:30 GMT on Sunday 14 July; at 08:00 GMT on Tuesday 16 July 2019 and at 09:30 GMT on Thursday 18 July. Check the schedule for more details.

Love books? Join Textual Healing on Facebook, a community for literature fanatics all over the world.

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