After being wrongfully convicted of two murders and an attempted murder in 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton spent 30 years on death row, an experience he recounts in this memoir that explores how his relationships, spirituality, and love of literature allowed him to survive and even forgive those in the criminal justice system he nonetheless condemns as racist and broken.
This book is filled with questions that infuriate ... Yet The Sun Does Shine is also filled with grace. Through his faith in God, the love of his friends and mother, his commitment to the other inmates on death row and the unstinting support of his appellate attorney (Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercyand executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative), Hinton maintained his soul in a soulless world. His experience gives him a peerless moral authority on the death penalty, and he raises powerful questions about the practice. Hinton’s voice demands to be heard.
Hinton’s account of the way he existed through what he called his 'legal lynching' is a story of forgiveness and struggle – and a story of friendship and imagination ... His wonderful memoir recreates the ways he escaped from his cell in his head – had tea with the Queen of England, married Halle Berry – and how he shared that possibility with his fellow death row inmates. He persuaded the guards to let them start a book group (inevitably, among the first up was To Kill a Mockingbird); he mentored prisoners about the need to replace anger and despair with hope and self-respect. On the day Stevenson came, though, he sank to his knees and said a heartfelt prayer: 'I trust things happen in your time, Lord, so I’m not going to ask why you didn’t send Bryan earlier… [but] take care of him because he is doing your work…'
Hinton’s solid voice in The Sun Does Shine gives the memoir a push-and-pull feel, mirroring the constant setbacks and advances on his road to liberation. Born in 1955, Hinton comes of age at a turbulent time in American society, and his erudite depiction of what he remembers of his daily life in rural Alabama is both insightful and aggravating. He details growing up in the shadows of the Civil Rights movement, alluding to high-profile turning points like the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham and the jailing of Martin Luther King, Jr. Alongside these historical moments are more personal scenes too small to have garnered as much attention, from the day-to-day reality of segregation in the South to the bombings of people’s houses ... His narration imparts a valuable understanding of just how strongly racism is tied to America’s criminal justice institutions, more so than any retelling of the circumstances of his conviction ever could.