The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton

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My Review:  

The Sun Does Shine is a powerful and important memoir, showing a discouraging side of our legal system and an incredible testament of stamina and hope.

In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was convicted of murder in Alabama and sentenced to the electric chair.  He was a 29 year old, poor, black man who had a job, a happy disposition and was a devoted son to his loving mother.  The judicial system did not protect Hinton as it should have and he chose not speak for the first 3 years of his incarceration. Rebelling in silence as he wavered between anger and despair, he anticipated being put to death in the electric chair, knowing he was innocent but unable to prove it, despite every bit of evidence indicating the truth.

As time went on, and the legal system repeatedly failed him, Hinton decided to speak up, fight for justice, and he found a way to survive death row…for almost 30 years.  Visitation with his mother and best friend, Lester kept his spirits up.  He learned to exercise his imagination and transport himself to different times and places.   Finding comfort in this, he wanted to share the pleasure of escaping with his fellow inmates and he started a book club. He researched the law while spending his allotted “free” time in the prison library.  He sought out an attorney who had his best interests in mind and the drive to prove innocence.  He befriended the most unlikely alleged criminals and created a supportive and caring family for himself; sadly 54 of them were executed during his incarceration.

With joy and appreciation for his relentless attorney, the unwavering love and friendship of him mother and Lester, and genuine forgiveness in his heart, Anthony Ray Hinton was released in his late 50s, in 2015.

This memoir was upsetting and joyful at the same time.  The judicial system, race relations, prison conditions, and the death penalty all need to be reviewed, discussed, examined and improved so innocent people are not sent to jail, and people in jail are treated humanely.  We are not meant to live in a 5 x 7 cell for any amount of time and these conditions with little human contact can contribute to negativity, violence and hopelessness.  Putting people to death is barbaric and a poor precedent for a government of a free country to support.  Anthony Ray Hinton had incredible strength of character and faith to be able to re-enter life outside prison and find joy and purpose.  I admire his immense fortitude and ability to forgive.

I highly recommend this book.  Check out Oprah’s interview with the author.

Goodreads Summary

 

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About the Author:

ANTHONY RAY HINTON spent nearly thirty years on death row for crimes he didn’t commit. Released in April 2015, Hinton now speaks widely on prison reform and the power of faith and forgiveness. He lives in Alabama.