Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Read With Us

Today's Read With Us is going to focus on the book we're reading this quarter, Just Mercy, and provide you with some background information. Hopefully, you've already decided to join us, but if you haven't yet, maybe I can convince you. 

Just in case you missed the first post introducing this bloggy book group, click here, and you can easily catch up. The discussion hasn't started yet and we'd love for you to join us!

Just Mercy is the memoir written by Bryan Stevenson, describing his early days growing up in a poor and racially segregated area in Delaware and how he came to be a lawyer who represents those who have been abandoned. The book description from Stevenson's Equal Justice Initiative website is better than anything I could write, so I'm quoting it here.

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machinations, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.
Just Mercy is an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of justice.

I've just started the book myself, but I can already tell that it's going to be a powerful read. By telling the story of Walter McMillian, Stevenson personalizes the struggle against injustice. As a 62-year-old white, middle-class woman, I'm lucky enough to have very little experience with injustice, but because of that fact, this book is something I need to read, and I think the same can be said of almost anyone, no matter what their experience has been. 

Many of us have read To Kill a Mockingbird and view it as a classic coming-of-age story about justice, discrimination, and racism. Atticus Finch is the epitome of what we should all aspire to be -- someone who stands up and does what is right, no matter how difficult. In an interesting parallel, Harper Lee grew up and wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in Monroeville, Alabama, the same community where Walter McMillian was accused, wrongfully incarcerated, and the six-year fight for this innocent man took place. Stevenson writes, “Sentimentality about Lee’s story grew even as the harder truths of the book took no root.” Stevenson fought for McMillian's exoneration against hatred, indifference, bribery, bomb, and death threats. Is he a real-life Atticus Finch? Read Just Mercy along with us and decide for yourself. 

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.
-- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

If you have 23 minutes, you can listen to Bryan Stevenson here. While he's not talking specifically about Just Mercy, you will hear his powerful thoughts about injustice during this TED talk. 


  1. This is perfect timing! I just got the notification that Just Mercy is waiting for me to pick up at the library! I am excited to start!

  2. I first heard Bryan Stevenson speak at a justice conference right about the time he released this book and I was mesmerized. This book was probably the first to show me how sheltered and privileged I have been in a way that was not shaming.

  3. Really looking forward to this!

  4. I haven't started reading yet, but my copy of the book arrived last week and I'm looking forward to it!

  5. I have just started reading the book, too, and I'm already totally entranced by Bryan Stevenson's story. When I picked up the book at the library, the librarian told me she gets tingles whenever someone checks out the book. She told me she found it "life changing" when she read it herself. I can't wait to read it! Thanks for such a great post, Bonny. XO

  6. I also just started the book (last night, in fact) and I'm already enjoying it. Great job with this post today!

  7. This book sounds like a must read for me. I have the book on hold at the library, so soon I hope to have a copy in my hands.

  8. I started this book last Thursday? or Friday? Not sure, it's definitely powerful.

  9. I'm IN! Off to check for a library copy from either DC or MD! If unavailable, I'll get from Amazon...


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