Marisa Readus and Alisha Readus are identical twin sisters, originally from Alabama, who moved to Dallas, Texas in 2007. In 2008, they self-published their book, now titled Breaking Thru The Bars, which is a tell-all of the time they spent in prison, and the hardship of regaining their life with their kids. The sisters had no idea the book would open up doors for speaking engagements, trainings, and thousands of book sales. Today, Marisa and Alisha are published authors with Brown Girls Publishing, and their powerful story has also been chosen to be transformed into a movie.
The Situation Room with Michelle Cuttino had the pleasure of speaking to the sisters about what it was like before and after Breaking Thru The Bars.
Michelle: Tell us a little about Alisha the woman. What makes her who she is?
Alisha: The woman I am has always been bold, and fearless of what could be. I live in the moment, and have always lived life to the fullest without many regrets. That’s what makes me such an awesome mother of seven, because I carry no shame of being a mother, and having four fathers between all of my children. My children are the better part of Alisha. Everything I see myself as in reference to the better part of who I am, and who I always wanted to be. My secrets, what’s deep inside the better part of me came out in my children.
Michelle: Marisa, I will ask you the same question. What makes Marisa the woman she is?
Marisa: Resilience. Resilience is what makes Marisa, Marisa. The ability to get knocked down over and over again, but yet get back up fighting with a smile. It’s an amazing character trait, and I’m thankful to God for putting that within me. It takes a lot to knock me in a place I feel I can’t recover from.
Michelle: What made you break through your own bars, and write a book about your life’s experience?
Alisha: The fact that I was living a destructive life that didn’t just affect me, but affected everyone around me. I didn’t want to be a fool, and I definitely didn’t want to be an old fool making childish decisions at an old age. I wanted better and saw better. So I focused on change. After going to prison it gave me a chance to reflect on everything, and how I had made so many bad decisions in my fearless living. Once I was released, I made sure I got my life on track, and focused on what was important to my children, and to my family. Once my life started to go in the direction I wanted it to go in, I said wow, I’ve overcome a lot. I have achieved so much despite having so many children. I had so many women ask me, how do you do it? So I thought writing a book would be a great way to get the message out. My twin sister and I talked and discussed our journey, and we were like wow we have been through a lot, and have overcome just as much.
Michelle: Breaking Thru The Bars was published under the Brown Girls Publishing imprint. How did that come to be?
Marisa: Actually it’s pretty funny, because I met Reshonda Tate Billingsley on Facebook. She commented on someone’s post who’s a mutual friend, and she was talking about her movie Let The Church Say Amen. I thought to myself. “I need to know this woman.” I researched her, and saw how amazing she is. I contacted her, and told her our story. Reshonda and Victoria Christopher Murray came to do a book signing here in Dallas, where we met in person, and that’s when we found out they wanted to publish us. They both are such amazing women, and I’m so thankful they took the time to hear our story.
Michelle: If there was one thing you could change about what you included (or did not include) in the book, what would it be?
Alisha: The one thing I would add in the book is the fact that after I got my life on track, I worried too much about how people perceived my very large family when I was single. I would tell everyone to live the best life for them. The opinions of others, and how they perceive you, will never define who you truly are.
Michelle: What has been the overall feedback for Breaking Thru The Bars?
Alisha: Readers say the book is real, positive, encouraging, and brings hope to those who are struggling with their past mistakes as well as learning to overcome current situations that are very challenging. The book gives them direction.
Michelle: Tell us a little about Double Impact and its mission.
Marisa: Double Impact consists of two women who go hard on stage with a powerful testimony! We speak life, we speak truth, we speak healing and restoration through our struggles. We inspire others towards Breaking Thru The Bars in their life.
Michelle: What do you hope readers will walk away with once they’ve read Breaking Thru The Bars?
Alisha: I want readers to walk away with the knowledge of change and new beginnings, as well as learning to take responsibility for their actions. One thing I’ve recognized is most people never take responsibility for the things they have done that are negative, or how they have affected someone by the things they have said or done.
Michelle: Breaking Thru The Bars has been a catalyst for outreach. What do you do and/or say to help the people you encounter during your speaking engagements?
Marisa: I think the biggest message is about your power, and your choices. You don’t have to be stuck and accept failure as the ultimate defeat. You see, a lot of people expected us to fail because so many ex-cons have, but we were determined. Determined for our kids, and our life. When we speak, we want them to walk away knowing whatever happens from here on out is a result of their decision, not peer pressure itself. We control our destiny by our choices. Of course, there are things that happen beyond our control, but overall it’s our choices that determine our life path. Our choices can turn life completely around, or send it down a never ending slope. In life you will get hit, but it’s the choice to get up that makes the difference.
Michelle: What’s next for Alisha and Marisa Readus?
Marisa: Our desire is to speak nationally at schools throughout the country. We also would like to be a case study for Sociology classes, or criminal law classes. We think we can help others understand the mindset of people who make bad choices and redeem themselves.
Michelle: How can our readers contact and/or follow you?
Identical twins, Alisha and Marisa Readus were living the middle class suburban dream. With hard-working parents and the best of everything, their paths were predestined for greatness. Or so it seemed….
The fast life
Suburban life quickly plunged downhill after their parents’ divorce. Their new urban life took its toll as the twins approached their teenage years, and before their parents knew it, they were hanging with the wrong crowds, doing the wrong things, and recharting their life course. Alisha would be lured into life as a stripper, filled with sex, drugs, and a rotation of bad boys. While Marisa sought sex and money by any means necessary.
What’s done in the dark
It wouldn’t be long before the fast life caught up with the twins. After becoming embroiled in crime, their glamorous world came tumbling down. The identical twins were sentenced to prison – and torn away from their small children.
It didn’t take long for these sisters to want better…and although they were hundreds of miles apart, both of them were determined to break thru the mental and physical bars, reclaim their children, rebuild their lives, and recharge their course.
In a riveting, personal memoir, Alisha and Marisa share their cautionary yet inspirational tale and hopefully inspire others to break thru their own bars.
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About the Author: Michelle Cuttino
Body Positive Advocate Michelle “Big Body” Cuttino, author of six books, works with authors and experts who need free publicity to promote their new releases, and grow their business. Once a month, she emails writing tips, free promos, and information about upcoming literary events. Subscribe at www.MichelleCuttino.com.