Lost Boys, Recovered Memories: Lorenzo Carcaterra’s Sleepers

Christopher Wilson, Boston College

In 1995, New York writer Lorenzo Carcaterra stunned audiences with a memoir entitled Sleepers, which told the story of the author and three friends, all from Hell’s Kitchen, who had been sentenced to a juvenile prison as boys. There, the memoir claims, they had been abused by a ruthless gang of guards. Even more sensationally, Sleepers described an elaborate conspiracy (including a local priest) to subvert the criminal trial that ensued years later when two of those boys murdered one of the guards. Christopher Wilson’s presentation will discuss the uses of ethnic, literary, and political memory in this memoir—patterns suggested especially by Carcaterra’s recent editorship of Alexandre Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo—in order to decipher its claims about contemporary justice, victim’s rights, and neighborhood authority.