Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Wow!, Powerful Read: Just Mercy

Just Mercy
Bryan Stevenson
My copy

Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson, is the most difficult, and powerful book I have read in my lifetime.

Mercy is just and when it is rooted in hopefulness and freely given. Mercy is most empowering, liberating, and transformative when it is directed at the underserving. The people who haven't earned it, who haven't sought it are the most meaningful recipients of our compassion.-Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy

 I used to read only fiction. But, in the last few years, I have been wanting to read books on social justice. I actually wanted to find a social justice book club either online or real-time without success. Just Mercy was supposed to be discussed for our book club in May. then our book club was at a standstill for a few months. I was hesitant to try Zoom. But, then we didn't meet for three months. Finally had to put my foot down, and say, we have to do it. Last month we finally met. Zoom was so easy, why was I so afraid??! We will be meeting in July. It was just a coincidence that the police protests were happening at the same time.

The only reason I am hesitant for our book club to discuss the book is because of the politics. But, I feel this doesn't have to be political. After reading the book I see our prison, and justice systems are unfair. Where have I been? under a rock? I will get to that later. 

Just Mercy is the true account of one lawyer trying to fight the unfair justice system, in Alabama. You say, unfair, what are you talking about? in the U.S.? How could that be? Well, it is unless you work in the courts. And see first hand what goes on. You wouldn't believe what goes on trial after trial. The unfairness of the judicial system when it comes to racial prejudice. Bryan Stevenson has been fighting for death row inmates for a very long time.

Bryan is an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative is responsible for building the Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, in Montgomery, Alabama. And The National Memorial for Peace and Justice. 

 He has defended several black men convicted wrongly by the corrupt justice system. Which one Black man, Walter McMillian was wrongly convicted and served jail time for about 5 years in Monroeville County, Alabama, and then released.  It is the same place as the setting for the novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.  Which the community is proud of( how ironic). He was featured on 60 Minutes which you can watch on Youtube here. You will get a sense after watching it how unfair our courts are.

He also defended Ray Hinton. The case of a Black man serving time on death row for 16 years. He was wrongfully convicted, again by corruption. it depicts how unfair our courts are. But, the real deal is reading the book. You can watch the movie. But, the movie pretty much follows the book. I would recommend the documentary by HBO, True Justice.

Just Mercy is a very powerful and hard read to digest. It shows how racism still goes on in our country. I was so angry after reading Just Mercy as a white person. I had assumed that there was equal justice for everyone. Just Mercy opens up many wounds. It doesn't just ask the question about death row inmates, and prisons, and the justice system. But also answers the question about racism and how it plays a part in our country, and justice, and equality in our constitution. It unravels everything I was taught. Why? I was the type of person that didn't question anything. I took everything for granted that everything was Just.  the justice system is unjust for anyone who is poor and powerless. It makes me see things differently now. And opened my eyes without blinders on. I will not take things for face value again.

What is despicable, What happens to the ex-death row inmate. Do the courts apologize? Those lost years can't be given back. If the justice system wrongly convicted someone will the courts compensate them? No, in most states they can't compensate them for time served. But, in some states, the courts are accountable and compensate the ex-prisoners. 

My question is how can this be. How did our government do this? How did our society as Americans have no compassion, and a just society? It makes no sense. We as an American society are hypocrites! We are telling? other society what to do(eq. human rights in China). But, here back home. We don't look at our own backyard!!!! How can a corrupt court, the police system convict a person and know they changed the evidence to convict them wrongfully. How can they do this, and sleep at night? I sure couldn't. All people are human, not just White people. How can you do that to another human being? All because they are black?! Why such hatred just because of the color of their skin! In the USA, I was appalled voting rights were taken away during Obama's administration. And this is OK?

I recommend Just Mercy to read. Or if you are not a reader see the movie with the same name. Just Mercy. had a large impact on me. I don't think I will ever forget it. I still think about it weeks later. We, We The People are in for reckoning in our country when it comes to equality, justice. We must fight what is right from the grassroots. Yes, we are protesting. But, now we must put policies in place. Thank you, Bryan Stevenson, for writing, Just Mercy. The book was written some time ago. It is very relevant now.


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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

House of Gold: Book Review

House of Gold
Natasha Solomons

My copy

I read House of Gold for our book club about a month ago. My memory of the book is a bit fuzzy. House of Gold is about the Goldbaum family from Vienna. It is about a big bank family in Europe. Sound familiar, Rothchild's perhaps. As I am reading it feels similar to Downton Abby.

in 1911 in Vienna. We meet Greta who is forced into an arranged marriage.  She has to move, and live in England with Albert and his family. This includes Albert's parents and his brother.

Goldblum's marry other Goldblaum' she doesn't want anything to do with Albert when she meets him. She and Albert hate each other. It's quite a while before they stop fighting with each other like cats and dogs. And finally, fall in love with each other, and become intimate, after their marriage vows. They have nothing in common with each other. Until Albert's mother has an idea to put her in charge of the estate gardens. This is when things start to change for the better. You see Albert's hobby is collecting bugs. Greta starts becoming interested and fascinated with while she is taking care of the gardens. But soon the war is looming in Europe. Albert has to leave to fight in the war.
What I loved was the description of the house, the clothes, jewelry, etc.

I hope I didn't give too much away of the story.

What I found interesting is how the Jewish aristocrats learn to deal with antisemitism. My take on the book is it was OK. I wasn't in love with the book.

At our book club meeting which was the first since March. Since the pandemic, we haven't met. We decided to try on Zoom. We didn't really discuss the book. I think it was because we were trying to catch up on each of us. I also was nervous about using Zoom. It worked out wonderfully. Not hard to use. But, I think I was camera shy. Hopefully, our next meeting will be a bit better. We will be reading, Just Mercy next month.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Hidden Valley Road: My Thoughts

Hidden Valley Road
By Robert Kolker

My own copy

I picked up the book, Hidden Valley Road because Oprah recommended the book. She recommended it for her book club. Our book club has not met in two months. I missed discussing books with our club. I thought I might try it out. Oprah discusses her book each week on Oprah Book Club on Instagram. I thought it was a great idea.

Hidden Valley Road is a hard book to read. It brings up many emotions and stirs up feelings. I connected with the book right away. Two reasons, I worked as a psychiatric nurse for the VA Hospital, and also my son has Bipolar that is managed( thank g-d).

The book has many facets to the reading experience. I love the writing style of the author. It is part biography, part scientific research of psychiatry, social culture, and psychiatric history.

Hidden Valley Road is about the Galvin family. The family is a large dysfunctional family. I am not going to go into the dysfunction, and craziness of the book. I will say during the time the children were growing up. Families hid dysfunction in the family. Most families didn't talk about personal things happening in the family. It was hidden.  Families felt embarrassed and ashamed. Everything was hidden. As the saying goes, "Pull yourself up from your bootstraps, get over it".

The book is unbelievable what the family went through. I am not going to go into the craziness, absurdities, and dysfunction of the family. You will just have to read it yourself. What I will say, anyone who is a young person who is interested in psychiatry, and schizophrenia.  Or someone who doesn't know about the illness will learn what it is like living with schizophrenia. The research, and the psychiatric history, and social history relating to the mental health community is amazing. The author did a good job writing the book. I loved the writing style, and the way research and narrative were interwoven in the book.

I always wondered what is the ramification of long term use of psychiatric medication. For years in practice, I wondered. The book talks about it from a family perspective. Also how hard it is to be a caregiver to six brothers as they age. How hard it is to take care of your family, and have a job, and wife, and take care of your sick sibling with a long term mental history. Lindsey didn't ask for that. It was her mother. Unfortunately, her mother couldn't care for them as she aged and eventually died.

 Some things I knew and was aware of working as a psychiatric nurse. Some things are constantly brought up over and over in the book. Which is talked about and debated, and still debated, Nature vs. Nurture?  Myself, I think it is both. I liked reading the different perspectives of the research, the family, and history. I found my mouth drop. Some people in the field will most likely say, I already knew that. That's why the book I would not recommend to some people who may find it is a refresher course. I found it refreshing for a younger author to see his perspective.

 The scientists now realize after years genomes play a role in our genetic code. Which one? That is the big question that causes our brain to be normal or dysfunctional. Which specific one causes the issue. There are too many to really know that answer. As the codes have too many different arrangements. The family has 12 boys and girls. Six of the boys have schizophrenia. The family had a difficult time coping with six. I can't imagine with one. Both the mother and father had issues that is why I say where does genetics start and nature begin. Because I feel it goes hand in hand.

Out of the book, I found we still treat mental illness the same. Nothing has changed, unfortunately.  We still look away at a mentally ill person. When gun control is talked about, its a crazy person. We treat mentally ill people as criminals. We, the rest of society doesn't and won't deal with it. We turn the other way. Until it is talked about, really. Nothing will be fixed in our society.

 I have seen as a nurse and a caregiver to my son so much inequality. Some of these people are shoved under the rug. No support system. Let me give you an example. I talked to my son's caseworker. I told them my son can't be on the expensive medication. Do you think they listen, no?  The hospital discharged him not ready for discharge yet. Luckily, as his support system. He was lucky, he had a support system to help him. And at the time it was financially stable. Others are not so lucky. besides knowing how the psychiatric community works. Others are not so lucky.

 The hospital discharged him with his medication $1500. I don't have that kind of money. Luckily, I found a coupon. Someone with a mental illness wouldn't know what to do. For me, it was discounted to $400. I could take care of it short term. Which I did. But, what about the many others who can't afford it. How could a social worker discharge someone without finding out in discharge planning? How he was going to pay for it? This is just one example of many experiences I have had dealing with Doctors, Nurses, and Social Workers. They just discharge them and forget it... So sad in our society.

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Monday, February 10, 2020

Supreme Ambition

 Supreme Ambition was a difficult read. Especially because I was reading at the same time as the impeachment hearings. With the same exact result as the Kavanaugh hearing. Trump plays the victim to his base. Just like last year, his popularity exploded

.I have read Ruth Marcus's posts for years. When I learned she was writing a book, I was excited. I learned the book was about Brett Kavanaugh. I wasn't so certain I wanted to re-hash the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. It wasn't just about the controversy. She wrote about the Republican agenda. Appointing Republican judges for the past 30 years. About the dark money, lobbyists, think tanks, and Super-Pacs. One of the largest groups, The Federalist's Society was the biggest influential groups for the nomination of supreme court justices, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. President Trump has packed so many new, young judges for the Republican party. He's actions will be with us for many generations to come. There has never been a president that was able to pack courts as much as Trump. Our previous President(Obama)wasn't allowed to appoint a supreme court justice. This was by choice of the majority leader in the Republican party. The actions of the Republican party is a threat to our democracy. That is why Supreme Ambition is such an important book to read.

The writing is an oral narrative. There are at times humor plugged in. To make it not too dry to read.  It is easy to follow.  What was goings-on behind the scenes of both parties at the hearing. What happened at the hearing that Blasey-Ford, Feinstein controversy. Why Sen. Feinstein didn't tell Senator Grassley earlier. The earlier part of the book was interesting and new to me. But the middle which was about the hearing. I didn't want to re-live that part of history. Small bits and pieces behind the scenes I wasn't aware of.

I was very angry at the heat of the moment. Now, that it is a year later. I can look at it objectively. My thoughts are a bit different. Yes, I think something happened. But, is it right to judge a person in high school, and college on bad behavior? I can see if he had bad behavior as an adult. But, that wasn't brought up. Instead, the Senate, and cable news focused on his younger years. Yes, it was wrong. But her thoughts were sketchy. I can relate to what happened to her. As a young person. I was attacked. Can you judge someone and ruin their career based on something that happened a long time ago? People do change. In his court, many young ladies had giving glowing reports working for Brett Kavanaugh. I based that on all the information I was given.

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Sunday, February 9, 2020

When the Crawdads Sing

When the Crawdads Sing
By Delia Owens

I have been looking forward to reading The Crawdads Sing. So on that note. It wasn't what I expected. I was expecting the hype to live up to it. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I was sent a galley from the publisher.

I thought the story was unique and wonderful. The writing is lush and poetic. The story itself is a good start. But as I am reading, and reading. I realize the story is not realistic. There are many instances where I thought. This can't really happen. I realize it is fiction.  So much of the story was contrived and forced. Especially at the end of the story. Where I finally had to say, really. I was so invested in the book. I felt like I was played by the author.

Many of you I understand loved it. I am sorry, but I didn't.

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