Write Your Own Story

Orientation Reading Component

Welcome to Bloomfield College!  As the newest members of the Bloomfield College community, we would like to introduce you to the type of academic activity you will soon be participating in at Bloomfield College.  Life After Death by Damien Echols is required reading for all incoming freshmen. Please read this book before you come to the four-day orientation activities from Thursday, August 21, 2014 - Sunday, August 24, 2014.  As a new student at Bloomfield College, you are required to attend this event.

At New Student Orientation, among other activities, you and a small group of other new students will join a professor to discuss this reading selection in a college classroom environment. Please remember that it will be much easier and much more rewarding to participate in the discussion if you’ve read the book before attending orientation.  We suggest that you read the book thoroughly and reflectively and then begin to formulate your own opinions on the issues raised by the reading.

All new Freshmen students should have recieved the book when registering for classes.  If you did not recieve the book, please contact the Center for Student Leadership & Engagment at 973-748-9000 ext. 1144

About the Book

In 1993, teenagers Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr.—who have come to be known as the West Memphis Three—were arrested for the murders of three eight-year-old boys in Arkansas. The ensuing trial was marked by tampered evidence, false testimony, and public hysteria. Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life in prison; while eighteen-year-old Echols, deemed the “ringleader,” was sentenced to death. Over the next two decades, the WM3 became known worldwide as a symbol of wrongful conviction and imprisonment, with thousands of supporters and many notable celebrities who called for a new trial. In a shocking turn of events, all three men were released in August 2011.
Now Echols shares his story in full—from abuse by prison guards and wardens, to portraits of fellow inmates and deplorable living conditions, to the incredible reserves of patience, spirituality, and perseverance that kept him alive and sane while incarcerated for nearly two decades.

In these pages, Echols reveals himself a brilliant writer, infusing his narrative with tragedy and irony in equal measure: he describes the terrors he experienced every day and his outrage toward the American justice system, and offers a firsthand account of living on Death Row in heartbreaking, agonizing detail. Life After Death is destined to be a riveting, explosive classic of prison literature.

Essay Contest

For the first time, Bloomfield College will sponsor an essay contest based on the common freshman reading Life After Death. The first prize winner will receive a $100 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble, the second prize winner a $50 gift certificate, and the third prize winner a $25 gift certificate. In order to enter this contest, you must respond to the following prompt in a well-organized, grammatically correct essay of five or more paragraphs:

  • In his blurb for this book, Eddie Vedder writes that Damien Echols “teaches us how to live.” In what ways is this true? What lessons can we learn from Echols’ experience, and more importantly, from how he responds to his experience?

The essay must be submitted by email no later than Friday, August 8th to Susan_Cox@bloomfield.edu. The winners will be chosen by the Reading Orientation Committee and announced during New Student Orientation.