Book Review: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

I had the privilege of hearing Bryan Stevenson speak this past August at the Global Leadership Summit. He engages his audience with insightful observations while pulling them into the story he tells. That day as he spoke, he both empowered me and broke my heart. He spoke of the need to change the narratives in our society that sustain injustice. His speech encouraged his listeners to change their proximity to the vulnerable populations in our society. “There is power in proximity.”

I ordered his book, Just Mercy*, that evening after I left the Summit. It took me a few days to open the book and start reading. My hesitation was a curious thing because my usual pattern after enjoying a speaker is to devour their writing as soon as possible. I remember discussing this hesitation with my mother and saying, “I’m scared to read this because I think it’s going to make me want to return to law school.”

When I did open the book, I found his writing as engaging, thought provoking, and powerful as his speaking. In Just Mercy, Mr. Stevenson tells a bit of his own story and his journey to becoming an advocate for reform in the American criminal justice system. However, the crux of this book is his telling of other people’s stories – people wrongly convicted in the criminal system. He does more than put faces to the issues; he puts his heart into them and encourages his reader to do the same.

Mr. Stevenson reminds his audience that the men and women who are serving time in prison are people. They are not just the sum of their crimes or their life circumstances. He discusses racial inequality, excessive sentencing, inhumane treatment of prisoners, wrongful convictions, the discrimination of the poor, and many other issues in the American justice system. He tackles the issues through telling the stories of people who experienced these issues firsthand.

The book tackles tough issues without condemning or shaming the reader. Instead, Mr. Stevenson brings awareness and ultimately offers hope that everyone can make a difference. He explains that the words we use and the narratives we perpetuate go a long way in shaping our culture. Mr. Stevenson encourages his audience to stand up for the poor and the disenfranchised because they are worthy of love and dignity.

I encourage you to read the book. It made an impact on my life and my vision for the future.

 

More resources that include Mr. Stevenson:

13th – Documentary

Pass the Mic Interview with Bryan Stevenson – Podcast

 

*Affiliate Link

Book Review – A Man Called Ove

Welcome to a new (hopefully regular) feature on the site. The plan is to add a new book review once a month. This is a short review, but length will vary based on the book.

Book Cover Art property of Simon & Schuster

My friend Corey recommended “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman a few months ago. I usually read books in a sitting or two, but I took my time with this one. I’d read no more than two chapters in a sitting because I could just tell this book was special. Each chapter taught me something I wanted to savor before diving into the next passage.

I read many books, but rarely does one move me the way “A Man Called Ove” did. I don’t want to give away much of the story line, but it chronicles the mostly ordinary life of a Swedish man named Ove. The chapters are mini-stories within his life. The tone of the writing is matter-of-fact, almost nonchalant, but each vignette adds to the fabric of the story until you’re utterly connected to Ove.

Ove is grumpy. He’s set in his ways. He sticks to routine. He’s amusing and he doesn’t know it. He knows he’s broken. He’s the grouch with a hidden heart of gold. Throughout the story, your heart breaks for Ove and your heart is happy for Ove. The book moved me to tears because we’re all Ove in one way or another. We all at some point think we have life figured out…until it surprises us.

To put it simply: it is a story about a man who thinks he lost love, but then love captures him again in entirely unexpected ways.

Take a journey with Ove…you’ll be glad you did.