Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson is NC State’s 2016 Common Reading Program selection.
Copies of Just Mercy, chosen by the students, faculty, staff, and community members comprising the Common Reading Selection Committee, will be distributed to all new first-year students during New Student Orientation prior to the fall semester. Bryan Stevenson will also provide the keynote address to the Class of 2020 at the Convocation Festival on Monday, August 15, 2016.
An account of a novice lawyer’s entry into the criminal justice system, Just Mercy chronicles the case of Walter McMillan, a young man sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he did not commit. The case drew Stevenson into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.
According to Penguin Random House Publishing, “Just Mercy is at once 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 true justice.”
Eileen Taylor, chair of the 2016 Common Reading Selection Committee, noted Stevenson’s ability to highlight issues of mass incarceration and institutional injustice through various lenses, such as race and class, as well as the author’s natural storytelling abilities as reasons for the committee’s enthusiasm for this book. “Given that this may be our students’ first exposure to institutional injustice”, said Taylor, “we felt as though Stevenson handled these issues with care and this selection promotes the Common Reading Program’s goal of active engagement with the community.”
“Reading Just Mercy connects NC State to current conversations across the country, both on and off university campuses,” said Provost Warwick Arden. “This book explores some of the deepest inequities, most notably racial and social class inequities, which have not been well-addressed in our society and shines a penetrating light on the criminal justice system.”
As the founder and executive director of 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, Stevenson recounts numerous cases in which these individuals faced a system in the midst of the mass incarceration movement within the United States. Through these stories, Stevenson lays bare the intersection of systemic racism, poverty, mental illness, and public policy in the legal system.
Stevenson has been described by Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, as “America’s young Nelson Mandela—a brilliant lawyer fighting with courage and conviction to guarantee justice for all.” While the Washington Post hails Just Mercy as “inspiring . . . a work of style, substance and clarity . . .” and Stevenson as “not only a great lawyer, he’s also a gifted writer and storyteller.”
In addition to being the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Stevenson is a graduate of Eastern University and the Harvard Law School. Stevenson also currently serves as a professor of law at the New York University School of Law.
The Common Reading Engagement Committee invites members of the NC State community and beyond to become engaged by:
- joining us for an initial meeting on Tuesday, February 9th at 2:00pm in room 4140 Talley Student Union,
- incorporating the text into fall and spring semester courses,
- submitting ideas on other active engagement opportunities via the Common Reading email at email@example.com,
- staying up-to-date with the Common Reading Program (CRP) by signing up for email updates via the CRP website, and
- engaging with the conversation via social media using the hashtag#onepackonebook.
Information about how to engage with Just Mercy and the Common Reading Program, as well as submitting nominations for future years can be found by visiting go.ncsu.edu/commonreading.
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