Book Review: Razor Wire Wilderness, by Stephanie Dickinson

Genre(s): Memoir, Biography, True Crime

Synopsis: Razor Wire Wilderness

Author Stephanie Dickinson first corresponded with inmate Krystal Riordan in order to do some background research for an upcoming novel. Yet their correspondence and eventual friendship have continued, long after Ms. Dickinson partially based the fictional character Trinity in Love Highway on the convicted felon and former sex worker.

In Razor Wire Wilderness, Dickinson details the trauma, abuse, and missteps that led to Ms. Riordan’s conviction for first-degree kidnapping and second-degree hinderance of her own apprehension. While doing so, Ms. Dickinson also shares with readers parts of her own life that caused her to identify with Riordan and some of Riordan’s fellow inmates.

As the book’s description on Amazon reads, Razor Wire Wilderness is “[p]art memoir, part true crime, and part meditation on the resilience of the human spirit.”

Review: This review was originally published on the Story Circle Network website.

Similar to Orange is the New Black, this book is mostly about female inmates, the unique difficulties female inmates endure while incarcerated, and the common choices and traumas that contribute to a large number of women committing certain crimes. And similar to Piper Kerman’s retelling of her time in prison, Stephanie Dickinson’s reporting of Krystal Riordan’s experiences in prison is compelling, disheartening, and a thoughtful portrayal.

However, in my opinion, the similarities stop there. While I do appreciate Ms. Dickinson being vulnerable in her decision to include some of her own traumatic experiences in the book, and can understand why she felt as if she could relate to some of what Krystal Riordan has been through in life, the resulting mix of memoir and true crime felt disjointed and confusing to me. The book was neither an objective recounting of female inmates nor a personal account of one person’s lived experiences, and is sprinkled throughout with incredibly poetic musings and metaphorical prose.

It’s as if the author couldn’t decide which genre to stick with, and in my opinion, the generally well-written and interesting content suffered because of it.

My Rating: 3/5

About the Author: Stephanie Dickinson is the author of several books and has had pieces of poetry and prose published in numerous journals. Raised on a farm in Iowa, Ms. Dickinson now lives and works in New York City. Along with her partner, poet Rob Cook, Stephanie Dickinson edits Rain Mountain Press.

For more on Ms. Dickinson, go to

Razor Wire Wilderness is currently available on Amazon.

Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of Ms. Dickinson’s book, Razor Wire Wilderness, via Story Circle Network in exchange for my honest review of the book.


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