Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson #Review

Just Mercy cover

Through the years, I’ve seen several news reports of imprisoned men and women being released after they were proven to be wrongly convicted of various crimes. I was left with two strong feelings: relief that their innocence had been proven, and angry that they had spent years (even decades, in some cases) of their lives behind bars when they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. I would only know the little that was reported about their wrongful convictions—usually that their conviction was overturned by DNA evidence or whatever—without knowing how they came to be tried and convicted in the first place. After reading this book, I’m certain that knowing those details would like have left me feeling horrified, as well.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption is a memoir about Bryan Stevenson’s work in the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit organization he founded in 1994.

The Equal Justice Initiative (or EJI) is a non-profit organization, based in Montgomery, Alabama, that provides legal representation to prisoners who may have been wrongly convicted of crimes, poor prisoners without effective representation, and others who may have been denied a fair trial. It guarantees the defense of anyone in Alabama in a death penalty case.

Source: Wikipedia

Several cases are discussed in the book, such as the case of an African-American man named Walter McMillian. Accused of murdering a white woman, Walter was held on death row PRIOR to being tried and convicted in a trial that lasted less than two days, despite having a solid alibi during the time of the murder—a fact ignored by the jury, who imposed a sentence of life in prison. The Alabama judge disagreed and sentenced Mr. McMillian to death instead. It took six long years of dedicated work for the EJI to prove McMillian’s innocence.

In another case, Marsha Colbey was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment after giving birth to a stillborn child. She spent 5 years in an Alabama prison before her conviction was overturned and she was released.

Several other cases are discussed in the book and, unfortunately, not all of them had successful outcomes.

After I finished reading this book, I couldn’t help but wonder how many more innocent men and women are in our prisons. However many there are, I can only hope they find someone like Mr. Stevenson who is willing to fight for them.

I highly recommend reading this one. It’s definitely a Book Worth Reading.

I received a review copy of this book courtesy of Spiegal & Grau via Blogging for Books.

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Author: Bryan Stevenson

Title: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Genre: Memoir, Social Justice, Nonfiction

Published: August 18th, 2015 by Spiegel & Grau

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

book worth reading

 About the Book

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time
 
Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded 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. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

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.

New York Times Bestseller | Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Seattle Times • Esquire • Time

Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction | Winner of the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction | Winner of a Books for a Better Life Award | Finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize | Finalist for the Kirkus Reviews Prize | An American Library Association Notable Book

About the Author

Author Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson

BRYAN STEVENSON is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University School of Law. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

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Underneath It All: A History of Women’s Underwear by Amber J. Keyser #Review @amberjkeyser @lernerbooks

Underneath it All: A History of Women's Underwear by Amber J. Keyser

I love history, and that includes not only important historical events, but also the history of things and how they evolved over the years. When it pertains to women, as well, I want to learn about it even more, so it’s no surprise this book appealed to me for multiple reasons.

The book is brief (only 96 pages), but it contains a lot of fascinating information. Here are a few examples of things I found particularly interesting:

Bras were presumed invented in the late 19th century, until a 2008 archeological discovery in Austria of four Medieval-era bras, which were radiocarbon dated to sometime between 1390-1485.

  • Upper-class women wore corsets under their clothes, tightly laced in the back. Lower-class women wore jumps—a corset made of leather or thick cloth—which was worn over the clothes and laced in the front. A lower-class woman wearing a corset was often called uppity, vain, or whorish.
  • Two million whales were killed during the 18th and 19th centuries, due to the demand for whale oil and corset stays.
  • Corset stays were made from baleen—a flexible horny substance hanging in fringed plates from the upper jaw of baleen whales—and not actual whale bone.
  • Until the 19th century, women wore loose fitting, open-crotched pants called drawers under their dresses (or nothing at all). The sprung-steel hoopskirt became fashionable in the late 1850’s, but it had the drawback of flying up unexpectedly. The solution was to sew the open crotch of the drawers shut, which sparked a debate over open vs. closed crotch drawers.
  • Bloomers were scandalous attire, and women who dared wear them were accused of being loose, immoral, or “deviant”—a roundabout way of inferring they were lesbians. (The same was said of women who had pockets in their skirts—something women’s clothing had never had until the late 19th century.)
  • Undergarments of any color but white were also highly scandalous in the beginning.

For such a short book, there is a lot of information inside and I really enjoyed reading this book. My only wish is that each section had been more in-depth, with more information, photographs, and drawings.

I’m giving this book a solid 3.5 stars, bumped up from the 3 stars I originally rated it at on Goodreads.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Twenty-First Century Books via Edelweiss.

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Author: Amber J. Keyser

Title: Underneath It All: A History of Women’s Underwear

Genre: History, Nonfiction

Published: January 1st, 2018 by Twenty-First Century Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

About the Book

Throughout history, women’s lingerie garments have played a complex role in women’s lives. Learn how undergarments protected and shaped women’s bodies to fit the ideals of the time, enhanced desire in intimate relationships, made statements about social movements such as women’s suffrage, and provided a way to express individual style and personal empowerment. With each swing of the fashion pendulum, new undergarments forced the body into the preferred shapeflat bust and angular ribcage, lush bosom and high waist, sloped shoulders and ample hips which in turn, affected women’s health and activities. Learn how lingerie has been used as a status symbol, a marker of social class, and an economic driver throughout history.

About the Author

Amber J. Keyser
Amber J. Keyser

Evolutionary biologist-turned-author Amber J. Keyser has a MS in zoology and a PhD in genetics. She writes both fiction and non-fiction for tweens and teens.

Her young adult novels include Pointe, Claw (Carolrhoda Lab, 2017), an explosive story about two girls claiming the territory of their own bodies, and The Way Back from Broken (Carolrhoda Lab, 2015), a heart-wrenching novel of loss and survival (and a finalist for the Oregon Book Award). She is the co-author with Kiersi Burkhart of the middle grade series Quartz Creek Ranch (Darby Creek, 2017).

Her nonfiction titles include The V-Word (Beyond Words/SimonTeen, 2016), an anthology of personal essays by women about first-time sexual experiences (Rainbow List, Amelia Bloomer list, New York Public Library Best Book for Teens and Chicago Public Library Best Nonfiction for Teens) and Sneaker Century: A History of Athletic Shoes (Twenty-First Century Books, 2015), among numerous other titles.

Her forthcoming books include Tying the Knot: A World History of Marriage (Twenty-First Century Books, 2018) and Underneath It All: The History of Women’s Underwear (Twenty-First Century Books, 2018).

Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy by Hallie Lieberman #Mini-Review

Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy cover

The first person to receive a PhD in the history of sex toys, Hallie Lieberman has written a fascinating book that tells you everything you wanted to know on the subject, and more. For example, did you know that until as recently as 2008, it was illegal to sell sex toys in Texas? Obscenity laws there (and elsewhere) set the stage for decades-worth of headaches and careful maneuvering for anyone involved in selling them. Regardless of the specific topic—whether it’s about manufacturing, advertising, or selling—there is always a story to tell on how things were done, and how they evolved over the years.

If you enjoy learning the history of how commonplace items came to be, this is an interesting read.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Pegasus Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Hallie Lieberman

Title: Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy

Genre: Nonfiction, History

Published: November 7th, 2017 by Pegasus Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

About the Book

Once only whispered about in clandestine corners, vibrators have become just another accessory for the suburban soccer mom, showing up in all manner of pop culture, from sitcoms to talk shows to the pages of glossy women’s magazines. But how did these once-taboo toys become so socially acceptable? The journey of the devices to the cultural mainstream is a surprisingly stimulating one.

In Buzz, Hallie Lieberman—who holds the world’s first PhD in the history of sex toys—starts at the beginning, tracing the tale from lubricant in Ancient Greece to the very first condom in 1560 to advertisements touting devices as medical equipment in 19th-century magazines. She looks in particular from the period of major change from the 1950s through the present, when sex toys evolved from symbols of female emancipation to tools in the fight against HIV/AIDS to consumerist marital aids to today’s mainstays of pop culture. The story is populated with a cast of vivid and fascinating characters including Dell Williams, founder of the first feminist sex toy store, Eve’s Garden; Betty Dodson, who pioneered “Bodysex” workshops in the 1960s to help women discover vibrators and ran Good Vibrations, a sex toy store and vibrator museum; and Gosnell Duncan, a paraplegic engineer who invented the silicone dildo and lobbied Dodson and Williams to sell them in their stores. And these personal dramas are all set against a backdrop of changing American attitudes toward sexuality, feminism, LGBTQ issues, and more.

Both educational and titillating, Buzz will make readers think quite differently about those secret items hiding in bedside drawers across the nation.

About the Author

Hallie Lieberman
Hallie Lieberman

Lieberman obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2014, with a dissertation on Sex Toy History. Her writing has been published in Bitch, Bust, Eater, The Forward, and Inside Higher Ed, among others. She is often featured on podcasts such as “In Bed With Susie Bright” and Bitch Magazine’s “Popaganda.” She has given talks at many university events and conferences. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Author photo and bio via author’s website.