One year after a graphic memoir dealing with sexual identity caused controversy as the Class of 2019's summer reading book, a memoir focused on social justice and equality has been chosen for the Class of 2020.
"Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption" by attorney Bryan Stevenson has been selected as Duke's Class of 2020 Common Experience summer reading book, the University announced Tuesday. Stevenson's memoir details his battle against biases in the American legal system and focuses on one of his most famous cases, in which Stevenson defended a black man convicted of killing a white woman in 1986. Stevenson's client, Walter McMillian, was held on death row for six years before Stevenson exonerated him and got the conviction overturned.
Last year's summer reading book, "Fun Home" by Alsion Bechdel, ignited controversy when some freshmen chose not to read it because of the graphic images presented and said doing so would compromise their moral beliefs.
"'Just Mercy’ is an amazing book in the way it tackles racism, justice and the criminal justice system,” said Paula Ajumobi, a freshman on the summer reading selection committee, in a Duke Today release. “It will frustrate you, but you should still read it anyway.”
McMillian's alleged crime took place in Monroeville, Ala., where Harper Lee grew up and set her famous novel "To Kill a Mockingbird." As part of the program, incoming freshmen will receive a special copy of Stevenson's book this summer and Stevenson—who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, is a MacArthur Fellow and is a professor of clinical law at New York University—has been invited to speak at Duke during Orientation Week in August.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill chose "Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption" for its summer reading book for the Class of 2019.
“Not only does this book highlight the racial injustice that plagues our country, but it confronts this issue by exposing the criminal justice system and the brutality and racial bias that is present in it,” said Maggie Haas, another freshman committee member, in the release. “I think ‘Just Mercy’ will be an extremely eye-opening book for our freshmen, and I believe it will be one to inspire productive conversations among not only our incoming class, but Duke as a whole.”
The other finalists for this year's summer reading book were "The Prince of Los Cocuyos" by Richard Blanco, "Between the World and Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates and "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel.
Past selections include "Fun Home," "Americanah" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, "Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann and "State of Wonder” by Ann Patchett.
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