Just Mercy Review: In Honor of MLK Jr and His Work

January 20, 2020

I've decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. ~MLK

Today, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) and his work, I’m reposting an updated review of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson from my September 14, 2018 post…

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

September 14, 2018

An inspirational memoir of courage ….. determination ….. vision …..

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, African-American, Judicial System, Criminal Procedure, Politics and Social Science


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

In this compelling and engaging memoir, Bryan Stevenson shares true stories about founding the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice established to defend those most desperate and in need (the underrepresented, poor, wrongly condemned, women, and youth trapped for life in the criminal justice system). In addition to detailing his experience as a young lawyer confronting political machines, fighting prejudice, and accepting challenging cases, Stevenson works determinedly and thinks deeply about mercy, true justice, and compassion.

Listen to Bryan Stevenson summarize his ideas in his own words: Bryan Stevenson TED Talk

Just Mercy Movie Trailer

Amazon Rating (September): 4.8

My Thoughts:

Compelling. Just Mercy is a compelling and engaging read in that it’s inspirational to read about real people and their life work. Even though some of the legal jargon and proceedings are unfamiliar to me, I am intrigued by the overall story of Bryan Stevenson and his lifelong passion for championing the legal defense of the most underrepresented and most desperate prisoners. Despite great personal hardship, he persisted.

Controversial. Some readers might feel they need to agree with everything an author writes to read the work. Sometimes, I feel that way if it’s a topic that I have strong feelings about and am committed to my position. Other times, as in this case, it’s thought-provoking to see issues from an involved person’s perspective (especially from an authentic voice) and to consider issues that don’t usually affect my life.

Memorable. I have the highest admiration for Bryan Stevenson and others like him who have sacrificed and served in areas in which I’m incapable of affecting change. The only thing I can do from the sidelines is to listen and support. Sometimes when I read, the experience is like looking into a mirror and other times it’s like looking through a window.  This is a definite window read for me. I’m here to learn.

Thoughtful Quote. Although a difficult read on many levels, Just Mercy is one of those books I can say I’m glad I’ve read. I appreciate the focus on children who commit crimes (not to excuse them but to bring compassion and understanding into the situation):

“When these basic deficits that burden all children are combined with the environments that some poor children experience–environments marked by abuse, violence, dysfunction, neglect, and the absence of a loving caretaker–adolescence can leave kids vulnerable to the sort of extremely poor decision making that results in violence.”

As a teacher, this quote reminds me of how important mental health services and intervention programs are to all school children (especially starting with elementary-aged children).

Recommended. Even though Just Mercy was published a few years ago, it’s a worthy read I’m urging you not to miss. Recommended for readers who are interested in social justice, for those serving in legal or social services professions, for readers who enjoy books about current issues (such as incarceration rates of African-American youth, the death penalty, etc.), and for all who are challenged by reading issue-centered books about thought-provoking topics from an insider’s perspective and an authentic voice. Bryan Stevenson is someone I’d like you to meet because he is an influential, courageous, inspirational, determined, and visionary person that will be celebrated, respected, and honored for years to come.

Your Voice. If you are a POC or Own Voices reviewer, I invite you to leave a review link for Just Mercy in the comments.

My Rating: 4+ Stars


Just Mercy

Just Mercy Information

Meet the Author, Bryan Stevenson

Bryan StevensonBryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. 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.

Bryan Stevenson TED Talk

Just Mercy Movie Trailer

Bryan Stevenson Wikipedia


Have you read Just Mercy or is it on your TBR?

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  1. I love the way you laid out your review. I might have to use this format. It really made it clear and easier to understand. I have read this book and am very familiar with the issue. I used to be a youth counselor and I worked with children of all races. There is a definite difference in the way white children who commit offenses are handled Black and brown children are rarely treated as children when dealing with people in authority and when the commit crimes they really are at the mercy of a culture that sees them as threats to begin with. There is very little mercy or even empathy when dealing with them. As a parent, I teach my child the importance of making sure he never takes any chances to find himself in trouble with the law, no chances, not even “just hanging out.”

    • This hurts my heart 💔💔💔 we need to do better! My friend has a child of color and she said when he was in high school “hanging out” that if the police came around to break things up that the police would drive the white kids home to their parents (as a courtesy I guess) and her child was taken to the police station for her to pick up. It’s heartbreaking that children of color need to live in fear of the police. If the officer is a POC does this make a difference in the treatment of children? Thanks for commenting! (I followed you via WordPress reader)

      • Yeah. Police scare me to death! I don’t like to be anywhere near them. I know I have to call on them if there is a crisis but I always have the fear in the back of my mind.

        As for officers of color: If the officer is of color, it can actually be worse. Police officers are a fraternal order and officers of color often feel pressure to prove their loyalty and/or set themselves apart from “the threat.” There’s a popular rap song from the 90’s called “Black Cop” that talks about this phenomenon.

      • Interesting! I remember there was an officer of color in The Hate U Give and he definite felt that pressure from other officers. He was caught between his community and his peers.

  2. I have had this in my shopping cart for a while I just finished The Hate U Give so it feels like a good next read in terms of being compelling and, potentially, controversial. I will check this out. Thank you for the insight. Also, I love that you included his Tedx.

    • I’m glad to hear you will be reading it! I think it’s one of those important, “must read” books! Thanks for stopping in and commenting! 👍😍

      • No problem! I think I followed you (I always get confused trying to follow blogs because the tags are in various places and maybe they aren’t a platform I have but regardless, I followed you on Twitter so I can get tempted to buy more books!).

      • Yes you followed and I “think” (!) I’m following you in return! I just commented on your children in divorce post! Thank you for writing that!

  3. Looking forward to reading this Carol– it’s on the list coming up for our book group. I’d like to see the movie– but think I should read the book first!! Fun to have your review as a send off to the book! I agree with you that it’s good to read books that stretch us out of our normal world. I’ll let you know when I get it read!! Thanks always for your reviews!!

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