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Books Related to Just Mercy, the Reading Across Rhode Island Book

By Donna | April 4, 2017


The Rhode Island Center for the Book at the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities offers a list of fiction and non-fiction books related to themes in the 2017 Reading Across Rhode Island selection, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson DB080035 The list includes books for adults and young adults.

Books for Adults, Fiction
Compiled by Cheryl Stein, Rogers Free Library

Magic Seeds by V.S. Naipaul DB060211

Abandoning a life he felt was not his own, Willie Chandran moves to Berlin where his sister’s radical political awakening inspires him to join a liberation movement in India. There, in the jungles and dirt-poor small villages, through months of secrecy and night marches, Willie discovers both the idealism and brutality of guerilla warfare. When he finally escapes the movement, he is imprisoned for the murder of three policemen. Released unexpectedly on condition he return to England, he attempts to climb back into life in the West, but his experience of wealth, love and despair in London only bedevils him further.

Black Girl/White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates DB063828

This painfully intimate depiction of race in America is a double portrait of black and white in America in the years of crisis following the end of the Vietnam War.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee DB0181896

Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch — Scout — struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her. Exploring how the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, Go set a watchman casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee’s enduring classic.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee DB036414

Scout Finch, daughter of the town lawyer Atticus, has just started school; but her carefree days come to an end when a black man in town is accused of raping a white woman, and her father is the only man willing to defend him.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty DB081300

Recent winner of the Man Booker Prize, this novel is a biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines DB036694

Jefferson, a young black man, is an unwitting party to a liquor store shoot out in which three men are killed; the only survivor, he is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. Grant Wiggins, who left his hometown for the university, has returned to the plantation school to teach. As he struggles with his decision whether to stay or escape to another state, his aunt and Jefferson’s godmother persuade him to visit Jefferson in his cell and impart his learning and his pride to Jefferson before his death. In the end, the two men forge a bond as they both come to understand the simple heroism of resisting–and defying–the expected.

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride DB077431

Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, the region a battlefield between anti and pro slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town with Brown, who believes Henry is a girl. Over the next months, Henry conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. He finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harper’s Ferry, one of the catalysts for the civil war.  This novel won the National Book Award in 2013.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi DB084732

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, unknown to each other, are born into two different tribal villages in 18th century Ghana. Effia will be married off to an English colonial, and will live in comfort in the sprawling, palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle, raising half-caste children who will be sent abroad to be educated in England before returning to the Gold Coast to serve as administrators of the Empire. Her sister, Esi, will be imprisoned beneath Effia in the Castle’s women’s dungeon, and then shipped off on a boat bound for America, where she will be sold into slavery.

Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill DB066532

Abducted from Africa as a child and enslaved in South Carolina, Aminata Diallo thinks only of freedom–and of the knowledge she needs to get home. Sold to an indigo trader who recognizes her intelligence, Aminata is torn from her husband and child and thrown into the chaos of the Revolutionary War. In Manhattan, Aminata helps pen the Book of Negroes, a list of blacks rewarded for service to the king with safe passage to Nova Scotia. There Aminata finds a life of hardship and stinging prejudice. When the British abolitionists come looking for “adventurers” to create a new colony in Sierra Leone, Aminata assists in moving 1,200 Nova Scotians to Africa and aiding the abolitionist cause by revealing the realities of slavery to the British public.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead DB085212

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood–where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape.

Books for Adults, Non-fiction
Compiled by Maggie Browne, Newport Library

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates DB082201

In a series of essays, written as a letter to his son, Coates confronts the notion of race in America and how it has shaped American history, many times at the cost of black bodies and lives.

From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America by Elizabeth Hinton DB086746 (in process)

Challenging the belief that America’s prison problem originated with the Reagan administration’s War on Drugs, Elizabeth Hinton traces the rise of mass incarceration to an ironic source: the social welfare programs of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society at the height of the civil rights era.

Ghettoside: A True Story of a Murder in America by Jill Leovy DB080674

Discusses the hundreds of murders that occur in Los Angeles each year, and focuses on the story of the dedicated group of detectives who pursued justice at any cost in the killing of Bryant Tennelle.

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist DB080165

Historian Edward Baptist reveals how the expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander DB074560

Argues that the War on Drugs and policies that deny convicted felons equal access to employment, housing, education, and public benefits create a permanent under caste based largely on race.

Books for Young Adults, Fiction
Compiled by Grace Osmun Palmer, North Kingstown Library

Monster by Walter Dean Myers, 2004

This screenplay-style courtroom drama is one teenager’s exploration of a day that haunts him, and the consequences that came after.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds, 2015 DB083370

Two teenager’s lives are changed forever when one experiences a brutal beating, and another witnesses it.

Let the Circle Be Unbroken by Mildred D. Taylor, 1995 DB017849

The Logan family live in Mississippi, trying to navigate a world of poverty and prejudice during the Great Depression.

Books for Young Adults, Non-Fiction

Black Lives Matter by Sue Bradford Edwards, 2016 DB085862

This book explores the shootings that began the movement Black Lives Matter, and the tensions that brought them to light.

No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin, 2008 DB069540

Inmates sentenced to death as teenagers speak in their own words in this book, discussing their lives in prison and their feelings on how they ended up there.

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