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Going Solo

The Big Wrap-Up: Just Mercy

Way back in September (which seems like a million years ago now, doesn't it?), Bonny and Carole and I launched our Read With Us experiment.  Although we thought it would be a fun thing to do . . . we had no idea if anyone else might think it was a fun thing to do.  Y'know?  

Read With Us

Would you think it was a good idea?
Would you like the book we chose?
Would you join in?
Would you . . . Read With Us?

And, now . . . here we are.  At the end of November.  Having our first read-along under our belts -- and all ready for a wrap-up!  (When we were doing our blog post planning for Just Mercy, I drew the "short straw."  Which means . . . I get to write this summary post for our first book.  And since we've never done this before, there is no precedent.  Which means I can make it up . . . right here right now.)  Let's go!


You Had A Lot to Say

Each of us . . . first me, then Bonny, and then Carole . . . hosted a week of discussion about our chosen book - Just Mercy - on our blogs.  And, yes.  We know the format was not ideal (we're working on that).  But.  Even though the discussion format was less than ideal, you had . . . A Lot to Say!  I'm not going to reiterate all of your comments and our discussion here in this post, but I will say that this book touched most of us in a profound way.  We were shocked and appalled by the injustice of our criminal justice system; horrified by how it all "works."  I'll just summarize by saying it was . . .  eye-opening.

(Please click on our names, above, if you'd like to check out the discussions on our blog posts.)


You Wanted to Take Action

Many of us, after reading Just Mercy, wanted to Do Something.  We were ready to take action.  The issues with mass incarceration and the failings of our criminal justice system (especially for people of color, children, and those struggling with mental health issues) were just overwhelming -- and appalling to all of us reading along.

In her discussion, Bonny shared this link from Equal Justice Institute (the author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson's, organization).  The site encourages us to "get close"/get involved through action in the following four areas:

  • Change the narrative
  • Get proximate
  • Be uncomfortable
  • Create hope

The EJI website lists several things we might do to be involved.  Do check it out!


Taking It Further

Here are a few more things I've found over our weeks of reading and thinking about Just Mercy that may interest you.

In the News

First, I ran across this article in yesterday's Washington Post about 3 men in Baltimore - arrested as teens - being exonerated after 36 years in prison for a wrongful murder conviction.  Their story could have been lifted right out of the pages of Just Mercy. In this case, though, it was Baltimore's Conviction Integrity Unit that cleaned up this criminal justice . . . mess.  

More and more courts (districts, states) are forming their own Conviction Integrity Units (according to the Washington Post article, there are more than 50 in the country now).  Do a Google search to find out what's happening in your state.  (I discovered that there are a couple of active Conviction Integrity Units here in Michigan, for example.)


We Are All Criminals

Next, I want to share this TED talk by Emily Baxter explaining her We Are All Criminals project.  This TED talk is 18 minutes long -- and worth every single minute.  (In fact, there is an even longer version of her original talk at Google available here.  It's 46 minutes long.  But absolutely worth the time.) 

What's all this about?  Well . . . it's about the very, very, (very) fine line between living in the shadow of a criminal record . . . or having the luxury to forget.  It's all about reframing the way we look at justice.

(Watch it.  It'll change the way you think.)


The Movie

And lastly, I just want to remind you that there is a movie - Just Mercy - based on Bryan Stevenson's book coming out in December (on the 25th, I believe).  It's getting some Oscar-buzz, and looks terrific.  Here's the trailer.  If you want to see the book come to life -- or if you didn't have a chance to read the book, but you're interested in what it's all about -- watch for the movie at your local theater next month.


And . . . that's a wrap on our first Read With Us read-along . . . Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.  

Next week, we'll be announcing the NEXT book that you can . . . Read With Us!  

In the meantime, we'd love your input!  Please click here to take a VERY-short-and-VERY-sweet online survey.  It's 8 questions - guaranteed to take No Time At All!  We want to hear from you -- whether you read along with us this go-round or not.  At the very beginning of this whole adventure, we told you it was our Read With Us "beta" test.  Now, we'd like your help so we can make it even better.  Thanks.



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This is an excellent summation of our experience with Just Mercy and I truly appreciate the work you did to give us some ideas on things we can actually DO to bring about change. I'm excited about getting input from our participants to see what we can improve going forward.


Thank you so much to all three of you for hosting this! Just Mercy had been on my radar for a while and I really appreciated the push to read it, but mostly, I really appreciated the smart and thoughtful discussion y'all facilitated. It made the book an even more memorable experience for me.


I am so thankful for all the hard work that you, Bonny, and Carole put into facilitating this! It has been a moving experience. I read differently and I had a place to discuss hard things. This book has not let me go yet - and I see things each day that I might not have noticed before about prison injustice. (This for example:

But, I also looked to my state and I am so inspired by our Lt. Gov. in his spearheading an effort to commute prison sentences (

Even small change can make a difference which has inspired me to stay involved!


Thanks for the wonderful summary! I especially appreciate your links to Emily Baxter's talks. All it would take is the loss of a job or a catastrophic medical diagnosis, and I could easily be bankrupt, out on the street, and losing the luxury of dealing with hardships comfortably as I do now. It's eye-opening but true and takes away much of the artificial divide between "us and them".

I'm also hoping for lots of survey responses with lots of suggestions!


Thanks for doing this. I didn’t get a chance to join in the conversation but I do love it when we finds ways to talk about the tough topics.


Thanks for giving us links for ways to continue to think about the problems raised by the book and how to get involved in addressing them. It looks like I've got some entertainment for the long weekend in store!


Thank-you for making this happen! I look forward to the next book and getting into the nitty gritty a bit more next time!


Thank you to the three of you for hosting this. I read the book but forgot about the discussion so I was a week or two late to that.


Thank you for hosting this read along! I might not have read Just Mercy until the movie came out if it had not been for this read along. Every so often a book comes out that profoundly changes your thinking about issues or just forces issues into your conscience to move you to action. Just Mercy is this kind of book. Just last night on the news three men were released from prison after being incarcerated since the age of sixteen for a crime they didn’t commit. We need to do better.

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