I first heard about Bryan Stevenson and Just Mercy from my husband, who was required to read the book for his job as a high school history teacher. In late 2017 I even had the opportunity to hear the author speak at his high school, and I left feeling inspired, but I have to be honest, I did nothing with that inspiration.
I hadn’t thought much about Just Mercy since then, until I attended the National Council for the Social Studies conference in Austin, TX this past November. One of the vendors was selling their books for $5 at the end of the conference, so I picked up a few, including Just Mercy- Adapted for Young Adults.
Once I started reading Bryan Stevenson’s words, I couldn’t stop. Somehow reading them impacted me even more than hearing Stevenson in person. I became angry and frustrated with the way people are treated in our country. I wondered how I could help. I prayed for those who are incarcerated and on death row. My mind was racing.
This book is one that belongs in every middle school in America. It would be a great one to read with students during January (to deepen the discussion around the work and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.) or February (to tie to Black History Month). We need students to read and learn about the injustices in our world, and teach them about empathy and compassion. Teach them that they are more than the worst thing they have done, and so are those people who we marginalize. We need them to get fired up, so that big change can happen.
To learn more about Just Mercy and the work Bryan Stevenson is doing, listen to his TED Talk here.