Title/Author: The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton with Lara Love Hardin
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
In a nutshell (Amazon):
In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Stunned, confused, and only twenty-nine years old, Hinton knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and ultimately set him free.
But with no money and a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. He spent his first three years on Death Row at Holman State Prison in agonizing silence―full of despair and anger toward all those who had sent an innocent man to his death. But as Hinton realized and accepted his fate, he resolved not only to survive, but find a way to live on Death Row. For the next twenty-seven years he was a beacon―transforming not only his own spirit, but those of his fellow inmates, fifty-four of whom were executed mere feet from his cell. With the help of civil rights attorney and bestselling author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, Hinton won his release in 2015.
With a foreword by Stevenson, The Sun Does Shine is an extraordinary testament to the power of hope sustained through the darkest times. Destined to be a classic memoir of wrongful imprisonment and freedom won, Hinton’s memoir tells his dramatic thirty-year journey and shows how you can take away a man’s freedom, but you can’t take away his imagination, humor, or joy.
Verdict: Must Read
My thoughts: With 12 white juries, a white judge, a white lawyer who’s not committed to defend him, and a ballistic expert who’s blind on one side, Anthony Ray Hinton was convicted and spent 30 long years on death row in Alabama for something he didn’t do. Waiting outside the cell for his release were his beloved mother who was suffering from cancer, and his most loyal friend, Lester, who tirelessly drove 7 hrs to visit him, without fail, for those 30 long years.
Imagine being locked up in a 5 x 7 cell, and waiting for your name to be called to the death chamber for something you didn’t do. All you hear are screams, and cries night after night, sounds of banging on bars every Thursday when a cell mate was being sent to the chamber not far from you, eating food that’s covered in flies and dust while cockroaches and rats surround you, and the only thing to look forward to is visiting day.
Just the thought of it is enough to give you nightmares. But Hinton knew he had a choice – to live in darkness or to be the light in darkness. He chose the latter. Even when everything else was stacked against him, he never gave up hope. He never stopped being the Hinton that his beloved mom had taught him to be – to love, to be compassionate, to never lose hope, to be faithful to God, and to believe in God’s love.
To find ways to cope in his 5×7 cell and to come to terms with himself the fact that this was his new ‘home’ until he was finally freed, he escaped and traveled in his mind, he became the light in darkness, filled the row with laughter instead of cries, hope instead of fear; he chose forgiveness and compassion, he chose to be the ‘Ray’ his mom had always taught him to be. “I could choose to give up or to hang on. Hope was a choice. Faith was a choice. And more than anything else, love was a choice. Compassion was a choice.” “I was born with the same gift from God we are all born with – the impulse to reach out and lessen the suffering of another human being. It was a gift, and we each had a choice whether to use this gift or not.”
What made Ray’s experience more heartbreaking for me is, despite all the injustice and pain that he faced, he overcame them with humor and heart; despite his unforgiving circumstances for those 30 long years, he found love, compassion and joy by giving and giving and giving. There’s so much to learn from this man. We need more Rays in this world.
Heartbreaking yet inspiring. A must-read! Stack it up on your TBR now please!
Have you read this? What was your take on it? If not, do you plan to read it? Please let me know your thoughts!
Till then, Happy Reading!