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‘Just Mercy’ is the 2016-17 First-Year Text

‘Just Mercy’ is the 2016-17 First-Year Text

This year’s First-Year Text is Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy,” a memoir of his efforts to defend the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. (Photo: bryanstevenson.com/Nina Subin)

The fall semester may be weeks away, but incoming Loyola students have already received their first homework assignment: Read the book Just Mercy.

Written by activist attorney Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, Just Mercy is a memoir of his efforts to defend the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. The book received universal praise after it was published in 2014 and won multiple awards, including the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction. (Click here to read a review in The New York Times.)

With its themes of race, inequality, and justice, Just Mercy aligns with Loyola’s mission and beliefs. And it will help connect incoming students with the Loyola Experience, said Bridget Wesley, director of Loyola’s office of Student Transitions and Outreach.

Wesley believes the book will inspire students to seek out knowledge, think of their role in society, and better understand how to treat people.

“We have to make efforts to know the realities of others,” Wesley said. “If we choose to ignore that then we are complicit in their struggles. We need to know what others experience in order to bring about change.”

To extend the themes of the book, Loyola also created a series of events called Communities in Conversation. These events—which include lectures, films, and volunteer activities—give Ramblers a chance to come together and talk about what Just Mercy means to them. Stevenson will kick off this year’s series by speaking at the New Student Convocation in August. 

Throughout the year, Wesley said, professors and staff at Loyola will incorporate themes from the First-Year Text into their classrooms and departments.

“We are particularly excited about this year’s series, because we have a new partnership with the Center for Criminal Justice, Research, Policy, and Practice, that is in-line with the new strategic plan set by the University,” Wesley said.  

• Click here for more information about the First-Year Text program, including how to enter the annual essay contest.
• Faculty and staff who are interested in getting a copy of the book should contact the office of Student Transitions and Outreach at firstyearexperience@luc.edu.
• Several University departments will host a discussion about the book on August 15. All faculty and staff members are welcome to attend, and a light lunch will be provided. RSVP here before August 9.

Stevenson received an honorary doctorate from Loyola in 2011 and spoke at the Stritch School of Medicine’s Commencement ceremony that year. He has received numerous awards throughout his career, including a prestigious MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” which he won in 1995 at the age of 36.