With the support of Provost Risa Palm, I am pleased to announce that Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson is the selection for the 2017-2018 First-Year Book Program. Just Mercy examines challenges to ensuring equal justice in the criminal justice system, documenting how marginalization due to income, race, gender, age and mental illness complicate this dynamic. The book, a memoir, personalizes the struggle against injustice by describing Stevenson’s work as a lawyer and advocate on behalf of those who have been unjustly convicted or excessively punished. With its central themes of justice, equality, community, and the importance of evidence, Just Mercy is a book that challenges individuals to examine the character of the society in which they live and to consider their roles in shaping that society.
Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer. He is a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Prize and Smithsonian Magazine’s American Ingenuity Award in Social Progress, and he was recently inducted in the American Academy of Arts and Science. Just Mercy, a New York Times Bestseller, was named one of the 10 Best Books of Nonfiction for 2014 by Time magazine.
The First-Year Book Program aims to provide all incoming freshman students with a common intellectual experience to stimulate discussion, to promote critical thinking, and to develop a sense of community among first-year students, faculty and staff. Students are expected to read the book before the start of their first semester. Stevenson will be the keynote speaker at Freshman Convocation on Sunday, August 20, 2017. Throughout the fall semester, programs and events related to Just Mercy will be offered across all Georgia State University campuses. Please visit this website or additional information and for upcoming events.
Allison Calhoun-Brown, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President for Student Success
Start Off the School Year With a Good Book
Throughout the fall semester, programs and events related to the book will be offered. The first event associated with the book will take place on Sunday, August 20, 2017, when the author of the book will be the keynote speaker at Freshman Convocation.
All incoming freshmen will receive a copy of the selection during New Student Orientation; students are expected to read the book before the start of their first semester. The book will also be covered in Engl 1101 English Composition and in GSU 1010 New Student Orientation, among other courses.
The goals of the First-Year Book Program are to:
- promote academic discourse and critical thinking
- provide an introduction to the expectations of higher education
- integrate an academic and social experience into the campus community
- raise awareness and tolerance of cultural likenesses and differences
- create a sense of community
About the Book: 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 machinations, 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 justice.
About The Author: Bryan Stevenson is the founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and one of the most acclaimed and respected lawyers in the nation. His memoir, Just Mercy, is the story of a young lawyer fighting on the frontlines of a country in thrall to extreme punishments and careless justice. It is an inspiring story of unbreakable humanity in the most desperate circumstances, and a powerful indictment of our broken justice system and the twisted values that allow it to continue.
Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu has called Stevenson “America’s young Nelson Mandela.” His work on individual cases has generated national attention and his efforts have reversed death penalties for dozens of condemned prisoners. EJI recently won an historic ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court holding that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional. Stevenson’s remarkable twenty-minute TED Talk on the subject of injustice has been viewed over 2.35 million times on the TED website and another 299k times on YouTube; The New Yorker named it one of five essential TED Talks.
After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1985, Stevenson moved to the South, a region on the verge of a crisis: the states were speeding up executions, but many of the condemned lacked anyone to represent them. On a shoestring budget he started the Equal Justice Initiative, a law practice dedicated to defending some of America’s most rejected and marginalized people. The cases he took on would change Stevenson’s life and transform his understanding of justice and mercy forever.
Stevenson is the recipient of numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant and the NAACP Image Award for Best Non-Fiction, and was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People for 2015. Stevenson is a tenured law professor at New York University School of Law. Recently, he was named in Fortune’s 2016 World’s Greatest Leaders list.
Please join us in congratulating our 2016 Winners: Holly Shaw and Melody Stewart!
- The Ghost Map was selected as the Fall 2015 First-Year Book.
- March: Book I was selected as the Fall 2014 First-Year Book.
- Natasha Trethewey’s Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was selected as Fall 2013 First-Year Book.
- Wes Moore’s The Other Wes Moore; One Name, Two Fates was selected as Fall 2012 First-Year Book.
- Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was selected as Fall 2011 First-Year Book.
- Warren St. John’s Outcasts United was selected as the inaugural book for the program. (fall 2010)