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Publisher's Summary

A “profound, sometimes hilarious, often heartbreaking” (The New York Times) view of prison life, as told by currently and formerly incarcerated people, from the co-creators and co-hosts of the Peabody- and Pulitzer-nominated podcast Ear Hustle

“A must-read for fans of the legendary podcast and all those who seek to understand crime, punishment, and mass incarceration in America.” (Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black)

When Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods met, Nigel was a photography professor volunteering with the Prison University Project and Earlonne was serving thirty-one years to life at California’s San Quentin State Prison. Initially drawn to each other by their shared interest in storytelling, neither had podcast production experience when they decided to enter Radiotopia’s contest for new shows...and won. Using the prize for seed money, Nigel and Earlonne launched Ear Hustle, named after the prison term for “eavesdropping”. It was the first podcast created and produced entirely within prison and would go on to be heard millions of times worldwide, garner Peabody and Pulitzer award nominations, and help earn Earlonne his freedom when his sentence was commuted in 2018. 

In This Is Ear Hustle, Nigel and Earlonne share their own stories of how they came to San Quentin, how they created their phenomenally popular podcast amid extreme limitations, and what has kept them collaborating season after season. They present new stories, all with the same insight, balance, and rapport that distinguish the podcast. In an era when more than two million people are incarcerated across the United States - a number that grows by 600,000 annually - Nigel and Earlonne explore the full and often surprising realities of prison life. With characteristic candor and humor, their moving portrayals include unexpected moments of self-discovery, unlikely alliances, inspirational resilience, and ingenious work-arounds.

One personal narrative at a time, framed by Nigel’s and Earlonne’s distinct perspectives, This Is Ear Hustle reveals the complexity of life for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people while illuminating the shared experiences of humanity that unite us all.

©2021 Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“A Prison University Project professor and a formerly incarcerated man bring together evocative first-person accounts from those who previously served in prison and those who remain there today in a starkly honest series of conversations.” (Newsweek)

“In this unforgettable book, Nigel Poor, Earlonne Woods, and a range of fascinating people generously share their prison stories, inviting readers to understand human struggle in an inhumane system via humor, contemplation, and community.” (Piper Kerman, author of Orange Is the New Black

This Is Ear Hustle is a jewel. Nigel Poor and Earlonne Woods are gifted storytellers, and their ability to draw intimate, authentic stories out of others is extraordinary. With grace and humor they walk through what life is really like behind bars, showing the humanity and depth of those they meet inside.” (Catherine Burns, artistic director, The Moth)

What listeners say about This Is Ear Hustle

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Crying, laughing and goosebumps

I can’t stop listening!! I’ve cried. I’ve laughed and I’ve been covered in goosebumps! This book was well written. Well read. And well done. I can’t love it any more then I have. I spent the whole day listening to it.

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Listen to this book!

I've been a fan of the podcast since the beginning! Moving stories. Beautifully narrated by a rich tapestry of voices. I loved everything about it.

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Just Like the Podcast

I have been listening to the Ear Hustle podcast for a few years, so was really excited for this book. I was even more excited when I realized it is read by Nigel and Earlonne. I was not disappointed. This book is like listening to an extended podcast. The hosts have their normal, incredible rapport that makes the podcast fun, entertaining, and educational. It also gives a lot of background that gives context (how Earlonne ended up in prison, how Nigel ended up volunteering at San Quentin, how the podcast got going).

There are some repeats from podcast episodes, which are listed in the afterword. Those flashbacks do not feel like filler, but add to the story they are telling.

Having said that, this book is very specialized. Some familiarity with the podcast would probably help in understanding the book.

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Amazing read/listen!

Loved the book! I was so excited that Earlonne and Nigel were the readers. Highly recommend.

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Deep Dive

Loved the before, during and after view of men and women who have been incarcerated. Well done expansion of the podcast.

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Ear Hustle Rocks

When I first starting listening to Ear Hustle podcast, I raved about it to everyone . It has moved me emotionally, I cried when Erlone was released from prison, and has given me a new insight to our Justice system. As a 83 year old great grandma, retired RN , everyone should read this book

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Incredible book

One of my favorite books of all time. Such incredible stories, well produced and amazing narration by the 2 authors. Highly recommended. It gives you a great insight into lives that you normally don’t have access to and an appreciation for the humanity of prisoners.

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Ear Hustle fans must listen to this excellent book

Since inception, the award-winning Ear Hustle podcast has taught me to respect and appreciate humans living a life I’m privileged to know nothing about. This excellent book offered more insights into incarcerated people and prison life, plus how the podcast began, how it has evolved, and the characters and personalities of Earlonne Woods, Nigel Poor and the entire Ear Hustle team. Throughout, the book is infused with the thoughtful, compassionate voices and earned wisdom the team brings to every story told. Like Lieutenant Sam Robinson, the public information officer at Dan Quentin, I approve this book. Get it now!

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Can't Get Enough of Ear Hustle

I binged the podcast on my commute and while walking my dog and became obsessed. Nigel and Earlonne are my favorite podcasting team and their book gives us more of each of their own stories, and takes a deeper dive into some of the powerful stories from the podcast. You will learn more about Nigel's experience with volunteering at San Quentin, her fascination with collecting things that tell a story, and what she eats for lunch every day and why. You will hear more of Earlonne's journey from being a kid who got caught up in gang activity, his first encounters with the criminal justice system, and his important work to fight the issue over over-incarceration in the U.S. These two have a connection like no other podcasting duo and they are a perfect unlikely pair. I devoured the book just like I did the podcast.

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loved it as much as I love the podcast

excellent production, great stories, and honestly the first book I've felt is better as an audiobook, not because the physical book is lacking but because the narration delivers just like the podcast. great work Ear Hustle!