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?
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.)
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.