Just Mercy ~ by Bryan Stevenson

Except for the last couple chapters, I was kind of disappointed in this.  I know it’s a classic now but I think that’s because of the movie version.  I don’t watch movies.  That said, the book won a bunch of awards for the book and its author and the movie won some more.  So my disappointment is probably more a statement about me and my proclivities right now.  (“Justice and Redemption” are always good things to learn!) 

*****

Just Mercy:
A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson 
2014
read by author
Rating:  7.5 / true crime – memoir

*******

The book (I don’t know about the film) is a memoir and although McMillian’s story is central, there is a lot of other material in it; children in adult courts and jails for crimes considered to be adult; police and courts which are essentially rigged by racist attitudes and a lot of white anger; the treatment of women in society and in jails. The jails seem to all be in the South but some of the laws are allowed by the US as a whole,  fwiw.  

This book is an indictment of Southern law enforcement from cops to juries (“polite society”) and on the archaic notion of life-imprisonment (or worse) for children.  The death penalty in relation to the poor and African American of our society and is more than touched on.   Long term solitary confinement continues, unfortunately. (And the Black community itself is not without sin – touched on in the last couple chapters.) 

Stevenson, the author, started the legal aid group “Equal Justice Initiative” which continues to be his main concern and their early cases are the basis for the book.  Life sentences for 14-year olds is now against the law in the US.

I very much enjoy true crime but that’s not really what this is. It’s more like a legal memoir  with some Black history and sociology thrown in.  Also, it’s basically about a decade old.  I just couldn’t get into it.  The author reading his own material might have been part of the problem.  I’m sure the movie was great but it too would be dated – and that’s important with a subject like this because what it’s trying to do is to raise awareness and protest but for the protest part to happen the events described have to be more current.  

Wiki gives the book and its reception much better treatment because they work with the times.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_Mercy_(book)

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3 Responses to Just Mercy ~ by Bryan Stevenson

  1. Keith says:

    Becky, this is an American hero who has stood up to racism and hate to find justice for death row inmates, who were innocent. The movie is excellent as well. Keith

    Like

    • I am totally NOT arguing that point!!!! LOL! Yes, indeed, we could have a statue to Bryan Stevenson for his courage and bravery (!!!) and heroism in doing what he did for Blacks and children and other poor people caught in the trap of the US (southern) judicial system up until today. He’s working to change things! The last two chapters of the book still show that and why. Truth be told, the book was probably just not what I expected and I never did see the movie (although I heard about it). If I, in 2021, criticize Ben Frankin’s autobiography it doesn’t mean I think less of him as a brilliant patriotic man, an American hero.

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      • Keith says:

        Thanks Becky. I was arguing for the subject not the words. I have seen an excellent documentary on Stevenson as well as the movie. Sometimes, biographies tell you how to build a clock, not tell you what time it is. I am sorry the book was lacking. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

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