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Common Reading Program Announces ‘Just Mercy’ as Its 2019–20 Selection

By University College

The Common Reading Program at Appalachian State University announces its 2019–20 book selection — “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson. “Just Mercy” details the injustices of a broken criminal justice system that punishes impoverished people, and Stevenson’s work to improve that system.

For the past 22 years, the Common Reading Program Committee has selected a book for incoming first-year students to read together in order to jump-start intellectual engagement both inside and outside the classroom.

Bryan Stevenson will give a public talk and book signing for the fall 2019 common reading program which features his book, “Just Mercy.”

“The Common Reading Committee selected ‘Just Mercy’ for its relevance to a wide range of academic disciplines and because Stevenson’s work has had a profound impact on our society,” said Dr. Martha McCaughey, director of the Common Reading Program.

Dr. Mark Ginn, vice provost for undergraduate education, said the reading program “supports a culture of intellectual engagement in a variety of contexts, both inside and outside the classroom; encourages students to engage with texts critically with the expectation of building topical and global knowledge; and enables students to practice civil discourse in a dissensual community.”

Stevenson, a graduate of Harvard Law School and founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, Alabama, has dedicated his career as a public interest lawyer to helping the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned.

EJI has exonerated innocent death row prisoners, won major legal challenges eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, aided children prosecuted as adults, and opposed the abuse of the incarcerated and the mentally ill. Stevenson successfully argued in the U.S. Supreme Court that mandatory life without parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.

Most recently, with EJI, Stevenson founded the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, also known as the Lynching Memorial, in Montgomery.

All incoming students will receive a copy of “Just Mercy” when they come to campus for Summer Orientation and will discuss the book during Welcome Weekend in August.

Students will remain engaged with the book and its themes throughout the academic year, in their First Year Seminar courses and at cocurricular events throughout the year, such as faculty panel discussions organized by the Department of Government and Justice Studies and the Department of Sociology.

Stevenson will give a public talk, followed by a book signing, on Appalachian’s campus in fall 2019. The event will be free and open to the public.

University faculty members who wish to lead a 75-minute discussion with new students during Appalachian’s fall 2019 Welcome Weekend about the book and about what to expect in college classes should contact Clinton Marsh, assistant director of orientation, at marshrc@appstate.edu, or Dr. Martha McCaughey at mccaugheym@appstate.edu by May 1.