book review · books · civil rights · crime · movie review · Racism

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson {Book and Movie reviews}

Blurb:

An unforgettable true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to end mass incarceration in America — from one of the most inspiring lawyers of our time.

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit law office in Montgomery, Alabama, dedicated to defending the poor, the incarcerated, and the wrongly condemned.

Just Mercy tells the story of EJI, from the early days with a small staff facing the nation’s highest death sentencing and execution rates, through a successful campaign to challenge the cruel practice of sentencing children to die in prison, to revolutionary projects designed to confront Americans with our history of racial injustice.

One of EJI’s first clients was Walter McMillian, a young Black man who was sentenced to die for the murder of a young white woman that he didn’t commit. The case exemplifies how the death penalty in America is a direct descendant of lynching — a system that treats the rich and guilty better than the poor and innocent.

Review:

Let start by saying, it took me a minute to get my emotions together after finishing the book and watching the movie. This was the first time I ever read the book and watched its movie right after. This was also the first book about this subject that I introduced to my son. He found it very informative but also sad.

While the focus of the movie is on the Walter McMillian case, the book focuses on that case and the many cases of others on death row facing similar or worse fates than Walter.

Before I decided to read this book with my son, I had a pretty strong opinion about death row. I was a person who thought that it was a waste of money to let those on death row have such long sentences before being put to death. After reading this book, my opinion has most definitely changed. I see why they have long sentences. If it weren’t for those long sentences, so many would not have the chance to fight for their freedom or lesser sentences.

The writers and director of the film did such an amazing job with the casting and how the movie was done. There were some noticeable things that were either changed or left out, but it didn’t take away from what was there.

Not only did Walter’s story tug at my emotions, so did the story of Herbert Richardson. A man who fought for this country and was damaged mentally. While he did commit his crime, being punished by being put to death because the justice system isn’t equipped with handling suspects with mental or emotional illness is unacceptable. Had the military and the justice system done better, he would have had the change to repent from his crime while also getting the help that he needed.

Stevenson did a great job bringing to light about the many children that have been sent to death row when they aren’t even close to being the age of 18. Having to spend their lives in prisons when they are at an age where they don’t even fully comprehend what is being done to them. This also shows how horrifying the justice system can be. Some of these children didn’t even commit the crimes that they are accused of or they have committed crimes that adults aren’t even being sent to death row for. The children go in traumatized and if they are lucky enough to come out they are in even worse conditions. It’s even worse for those who have already been damaged.

I would highly recommend both reading the book and watching the movie. This book is great on audio and is narrated by Stevenson.

Rating;

4 Golden Girls

Availability:

Available now in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook

abuse · book review · books · civil rights · crime · diversity

One Night in Georgia by Celeste O. Norfleet {ARC Review}

Blurb:

Set in the summer of 1968, a provocative and devastating novel of individual lives caught in the grips of violent history—a timely and poignant story that reverberates with the power of Alice Walker’s Meridian and Ntozake Shange’s Betsey Browne.

At the end of a sweltering summer shaped by the tragic assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy, race riots, political protests, and the birth of Black power, three coeds from New York City—Zelda Livingston, Veronica Cook, and Daphne Brooks—pack into Veronica’s new Ford Fairlane convertible, bound for Atlanta and their last year at Spelman College. It is the beginning a journey that will change their lives irrevocably.

Unlikely friends from vastly different backgrounds, the trio has been inseparable since freshman year. Zelda, serious and unyielding, the heir of rebellious slaves and freedom riders, sees the world in black versus white. Veronica, the privileged daughter of a refined, wealthy family, strongly believes in integration and racial uplift. Daphne lives with a legacy of loss—when she was five years old, her black mother committed suicide and her white father abandoned her.

Because they will be going their separate ways after graduation, Zelda, Veronica, and Daphne intend to make lasting memories on this special trip. Though they are young and carefree, they aren’t foolish. Joined by Veronica’s family friend Daniel, they rely on the Motorist Green Book to find racially friendly locations for gas, rest, and food. Still, with the sun on their cheeks, the wind in their hair, and Motown on the radio, the girls revel in their freedom. Yet as the miles fly by, taking them closer to the Mason-Dixon line, tension begins to rise and the conversation turns serious when Daphne shares a horrifying secret about her life.

When they hit Washington, D.C., the joyous trip turns dark. In Virginia they barely escape a desperate situation when prison guards mistake Daniel for an escapee. Further south they barely make it through a sundown town. When the car breaks down in Georgia they are caught up in a racially hostile situation that leaves a white person dead and one of the girls holding the gun.

Review:

This was such a deep book. It wasn’t too complex as far as the writing or story is concern but the content was complex. When you are first introduced to Zelda, you immediately feel her strength and determination bouncing off the page and that is a good thing that will come in handy for her as the story progresses.

As the girls and Daniel travel, they are thrown into situations that will both test their mental strength, friendships, and self-esteem at the same time. They are quickly reminded that although the world is changing, it is a slow change and they still have to be careful. They cannot take anything for granted.

Although this is a historical fiction, there are so many instances that reflect today’s society and what is going on in so many ways. It shows that although things aren’t completely as they were in the 60s, there are some things that have yet to change.

I love how this story plays out even if there were times it made me so angry that I wanted to cry. I think that is what the author was maybe trying to go for with this story. Take us out of our comfort zone. Open our eyes to how things were, still are at times, and can be at any given time.

Rating:

4.5 Stars

Availability:

Available now in paperback, ebook and audiobook

 

A special thank you to Amistad Books for my review copy