SACO – This time of year, people of all walks of life look at the calendar and often decide to make a change to some of their habits. Sometimes, they decide to eat a little less, sometimes, they decide to exercise a bit more. Whatever change they make, it is almost always done with an eye toward improvement.
This year, I’d like to use this space to write about the books I’m reading, books that I may be using in my classroom, or books that I just find interesting. I hope there’s something of interest here for you as well.
The first book I’d like to write about is the nonfiction, bestselling story titled, “Just Mercy,” by Bryan Stevenson. I first learned about the book from a fellow teacher when we were talking one day about nonfiction books that we’ve used in our classroom as a mechanism to talk about justice.
After rattling through a list of well-known books, she said that she’d like to read this book and had heard nothing but good things about the author, the content, and the writing style. Within a few days, I had a copy and within a week, I’d read it cover to cover.
The book was so compelling that when I was doing a bit of research about the author, I discovered that Stevenson had narrated an audio version of the book and it was available on Audible. Two-clicks and I too had a copy of that.
If possible, I like to hear an author speak about their work. For me, there is nothing better than listening to the writer explain what drove them to finish this work in the first place, the idea that captivated them in such a way that they had to write see it to completion. I also like to play a game and see if the voice in my head matches the real voice of the author. In this case, I was close.
This book is filled with statistics and stories about the criminal justice system and specifically the way in which the death penalty or life imprisonment is often handed out to poor, young, minority men.
When appropriate, Stevenson makes a riveting argument about the innocence of some of these men, but when appropriate, he makes it clear that some of them actually did commit the crime for which they are now incarcerated. If they are guilty of the crime for which they have been charged, he says so.
His argument is then centered on the idea that the punishment that was handed out, might not fit the crime. He also does a remarkable job of writing about the victims of the crimes. He interviews their families and tries to show or explain how the crime affected everyone connected to the event.
Overall, the book is well-written, and the narrative sections of the prose move with increasing intensity. The real test for me is my students. Without a great deal of prodding, they read the book and were anxious to talk about the specific cases and characters. That all I could ask for.
So, if you are looking for an interesting nonfiction piece about the justice system in the United States, this is a good choice. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
See you on the roads and stay tuned – as always, if I think it’s interesting, I’ll write about it.
Thanks again for reading my stories and as always, you may purchase my novel, Homecoming: A Soldier’s Story of Loyalty, Courage, and Redemption at your local, independent bookstore or online: DavidArenstam.com, BrysonTaylorPublishing.com, or Amazon.com
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