November 4, 2015

Fr: Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall and University Librarian Denise Stevens
Re: UCSB Reads 2016 Book Announced


The UC Santa Barbara Library and the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor are pleased to announce the selection of a book for UCSB Reads 2016 — Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel & Grau, 2014). The author of this best-selling, award-winning memoir about racial inequality in the U.S. is Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. A MacArthur Fellow, Stevenson has been described by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu as “America’s young Nelson Mandela.”

Through a common reading experience, UCSB Reads, now in its 10th anniversary year, brings the campus and Santa Barbara community together for dialogue about important topical issues. The book is selected by a panel of faculty, students, staff, and community representatives. In January 2016, thousands of copies of Just Mercy will be distributed for free to UCSB students in the expanded and renovated new UCSB Library. During the winter and spring quarters, the Library will sponsor public programming on campus and at Santa Barbara Public Library System locations that explore issues raised by the book. UCSB Reads will conclude with a lecture by Stevenson in Campbell Hall on April 18, 2016. Additional events will be posted online in coming weeks and months.

Stevenson has been representing capital defendants and death row prisoners since 1985. He has argued six cases before the Supreme Court, and won a ruling on behalf of juveniles in the justice system. He has said: “The opposite of poverty isn’t wealth ... the opposite of poverty is justice.” Stevenson, who grew up poor in a racially segregated neighborhood in Delaware, is a Harvard Law School graduate and a professor at the New York University School of Law.

Just Mercy, praised by critics as “compelling,” “searing,” and “inspiring,” is a combination of memoir and reporting. The book chronicles the author’s own life as well as the stories of defendants he has helped, most notably Walter McMillian, a prisoner on death row whom he helped exonerate. In 1989, Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit legal organization dedicated to defending death row prisoners, juvenile offenders, people who have been wrongly convicted, and those who have suffered racial bias in the criminal justice system.

Just Mercy has received numerous honors, including the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction, the 2015 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Nonfiction, and the 2015 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work of Nonfiction. Time magazine named the book one of the Top 10 nonfiction titles of 2014. Actor Michael B. Jordan will star in a film adaptation of the memoir.

We welcome ideas and participation from students, faculty, and campus organizations for UCSB Reads 2016. Faculty are encouraged to incorporate Just Mercy into their winter or spring courses if relevant to the subject matter; the Library will provide free copies of the book to all students in these courses. If you want to teach the book, co-sponsor or participate in an event, or if you have suggestions for programming, please contact:

Alex Regan, Events and Exhibitions Librarian

Phone: 805-893-3605


Thank you.