A Note to Readers
We have written here about terrible things that we never wanted to think about again. But our story is not just about rape and chains, lies and misery. That was Ariel Castro's world. Our story is about overcoming all that.
We want people to know the truth, the real story of our decade as Castro's prisoners inside 2207 Seymour Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio.
For years we could see on TV that our families were looking for and praying for us. They never gave up, and that gave us strength. We videotaped news coverage of them holding vigils and replayed those tapes on our most desperate days. When it was very hard to believe we would ever be free again, and no longer enslaved by a cruel man, just writing the word "hope" over and over helped keep us going.
Now we want the world to know: We survived, we are free, we love life. We were stronger than Ariel Castro.
While we lived within feet of each other for years inside a very small house, our experiences were very different. Castro was a master manipulator who lied to each of us about the others so we wouldn't trust one another and band together against him.
To tell our distinct stories, parts of this book are in Amanda's voice and parts are in Gina's, and we have clearly marked each.
Amanda kept a diary of more than 1,200 pages, and its entries are a key source for this book. They were written on McDonald's napkins and takeout bags, on loose-leaf paper, in a kid's dime-store journal, and even on the inside of empty cardboard boxes of Little Debbie cakes. Ariel Castro also shot many hours of home video over the years, and together with Amanda's notes they form a vivid record of life inside that house, which has enabled us to write precisely about what was happening on specific dates and times.
Amanda was only seventeen when she started writing down her thoughts, and especially in the early years they are written in a teenager's shorthand. A week after her abduction, for example, she wrote: "I asked him when he's takin' me home — he said MAYBE the last wk of June. I just don't want noone 2 4-get about me. Ima go 4 now. PRAY 4 me!" To make it easier on readers, we have expanded that shorthand, and use italics when we quote Amanda's diary exactly as written.
Other parts of this book involve matters that were taking place outside the house that we could not possibly have known about. To explain those, we have relied on Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, the journalists who helped us write this book. Their reporting has enabled us to learn about law enforcement's search for us, the school bus driver who stole a decade of our lives, his violent relationship with his common-law wife, and his long history of domestic violence.
Mary, who grew up on the west side of Cleveland, and Kevin reviewed thousands of pages of police reports and court transcripts, watched hours of Castro's videotaped interviews with police, visited Castro's hometown in rural Puerto Rico, and interviewed Castro's family members and scores of other people to help investigate how our kidnappings happened and went unsolved for so long.
Michelle Knight was also a captive in Castro's house and we invited her to join us in writing this book, but she decided to tell her story by herself. She appears throughout our account when she had significant interactions with us. We wish her only the best as we all try to recover and rebuild our lives.
We are inspired every day by Jocelyn Berry, who was born on a Christmas morning in the house on Seymour Avenue. She made a dark place brighter, and in many ways helped save us.
Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus Cleveland February 10, 2015
From Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland by Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, with Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan. To be published on April 27, 2015 by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.