Brittney Griner, in Her Own Words

COMING HOME, by Brittney Griner with Michelle Burford

If you weren’t following women’s basketball, you probably hadn’t heard of Brittney Griner when she was arrested at a Moscow-area airport in February 2022. But she was a bona fide superstar — an Olympic gold medalist, a W.N.B.A. All-Star and the linchpin of her team, the Phoenix Mercury.

When she was detained, she was traveling to her $1 million off-season job with UMMC Yekaterinburg, a top team in the wildly popular Russian women’s basketball league where she had played for seven years, in part to supplement her $220,000 salary with the Mercury. Her crime: possessing 0.7 grams of medicinal marijuana oil — legally prescribed in the United States — that she had forgotten to remove from her bag.

“Fear is one thing,” Griner writes in “Coming Home,” her new memoir, describing the stomach-curdling moment when an inspector seized her passport and told her to wait. “But uncertainty, the unknown, a free fall into mystery — that’s much stronger than fear; it’s terror.”

At first, Griner naïvely thought she would be fined and sentenced to house arrest. But possession of even a small amount of drugs is a serious offense in Russia, and she was eventually charged with narcotics smuggling. Days later, when Russia invaded Ukraine, Griner found herself a high-profile pawn in a vicious geopolitical battle.

“Coming Home” is a visceral, harrowing account of what it’s like to be trapped inside Russia’s infamous criminal justice system, with its merciless judges and vast labor camps.

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