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Reading Groups

University Libraries book discussion series schedules, discussion questions, and additional resources.

Join virtual book discussions on Just Mercy

 Please join the Libraries' virtual reading group series on Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.

Just Mercy is 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. It has won numerous honors including the Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Nonfiction and the NAACP Image Award for Nonfiction.

Book Preview
Tuesday, Oct. 5 | 5:30–7 p.m.

Book Discussion
Tuesday, Oct. 12 | 5:30–7 p.m.
 
The reading group meetings are open to everyone, but registration is required. Please register for the Zoom meetings and to request a copy of the book. Contact Kimberly Vardeman for more information about the series.

 

Registration and schedule

Join our virtual reading group series on Just Mercy. Please register for the Zoom meetings and to request a copy of the book.

Book Preview
Tuesday, Oct. 5 | 5:30–7 p.m.

Book Discussion
Tuesday, Oct. 12 | 5:30–7 p.m.

Reading group speaker bios

Oct. 5

Kenton T. Wilkinson

Regents Professor and Director of the Thomas Jay Harris Institute for Hispanic & International Communication in the College of Media & Communication at Texas Tech University. His research interests include international communication and U.S. Hispanic-oriented media. He is a member of the Lubbock Scapes Collective, an interdisciplinary group of faculty who challenge academic boundaries by creating holistic projects that problematize questions of landscapes through scholarly collaborations that seek to understand, define, evaluate, and represent spaces people inhabit. His book, Spanish-Language Television in the United States: Fifty Years of Development, was published by Routledge in 2016.

Leslie Jill Patterson

Teaches in the creative writing program at Texas Tech University, where she specializes in narrative nonfiction. Her essays on the death penalty have appeared in Gulf Coast, The Rumpus, Hunger Mountain, Creative Nonfiction, and elsewhere. Her awards include an Embrey Human Rights Fellowship; a Soros Justice Fellowship, funded by the Open Society Foundations; the Richard J. Margolis Award for Social Justice Writing; and a Pushcart Prize. In 2009, she began working as the storyteller for public defenders representing indigent men charged with capital murder and facing the death penalty; she has served on over thirty-five cases.

Oct. 12

Miguel Levario

Associate professor of United States history and Borderlands Studies and is the program coordinator for the Mexican American & Latina/o Studies minor. The Mexican American and Latina/o Studies is an 18-hour minor in a dynamic interdisciplinary course of study based in the humanities, social sciences, arts, and evolution of ethnic studies. The Mexican American and Latina/o Studies minor offers a unique curricular structure through which to examine one of the predominant ethnic groups in the American Southwest, and the fastest growing nationally.

Just Mercy discussion questions

Questions from TTU librarians

  1. What is the meaning of the title “Just Mercy”?
  2. Do you think that there are similar circumstances in the Texas legal/prison system similar to what Mr. Stevenson encountered?
  3. What are the parallels and irony of Monroeville, Alabama being associated with To Kill a Mockingbird and Walter McMillian's capital murder case?

Questions from the 2015 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction Book Discussion Guide »

  1. How would you define “justice”? How would you define “mercy”? What role does mercy have in criminal law?
  2. Do you think the juvenile justice system is fulfilling its mission? What do you think is working and what do you think needs to be changed?
  3. In his acceptance speech for the Carnegie Medal, Bryan Stevenson referenced America’s tendency to want to move beyond the past rather than acknowledging it. He contrasted this with Germany’s public acknowledgment of the Holocaust, and that these public reminders exist in many places to move toward reconciliation with a terrible past. Do you think this is a fair statement? Are there things we could do to better acknowledge our troubled racial history in this country?
  4. This book clearly stands in opposition to capital punishment. Did the author’s examples of flaws within the justice system change your thinking about the death penalty?
  5. One of the most disturbing chapters in this book focuses on the long prison sentences given to very young offenders. Do you think that a “life without parole” sentence is ever appropriate for a juvenile offender? Are long prison sentences an effective deterrent to crime for juvenile offenders?
  6. While the problems that Stevenson cites hold true across most of our country, he began his work in the American South. How do you think his perspective might be influenced by this? Do you think that the problems that he exposes are worse in the South?
  7. Stevenson discusses the role of mental illness in some of the cases that he talks about. Do you think that racial minorities suffering from this problem are more likely than white people to end up in prison, rather than receiving the treatment they need?
  8. Have you read any other books on this topic? How does this one compare? Were there things that you wanted to learn more about?
  9. Desmond Tutu referred to author Bryan Stevenson as “America’s young Nelson Mandela.” This is a first book for the author. What do you think he might write next? What would you like to see him write next?
  10. In interviews, Stevenson talks about the influence of books and reading (particularly fiction) in his own development, citing his appreciation for authors like Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Toni Morrison, among others. How do you think his love of character-driven fiction influenced the way he told the stories about the people he encountered in his legal work?
  11. Why do you think the author chose to write this book from a personal perspective, rather than a more detached and sociological one?
  12. Are there any cases in which you feel the author was too compassionate in his interpretation of his clients’ motives? If so, do you think it was a conscious choice on his part to be as generous as possible with people that may not have had that treatment from society as a whole?
  13. Did this book leave you with a sense of hope that things can change, and that the inequities in our judicial system can be addressed and improved? Do you feel there is anything you can do to facilitate this?
  14. The subtitle for this book is “A Story of Justice and Redemption.” What is the “redemption” referring to? Who, or what, needs to be redeemed?

Download publisher discussion guide »

Additional sources suggested by guest speakers

Antiracist reading

Books and e-Books available at the Texas Tech University Library

Books available at other local libraries

  • Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman Jr. Available at the Law Library call no. HV9950. F655 2017.
  • Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces by Radley Balko. Available at the Lubbock Public Library.

Bryan Stevenson author talk videos