It seems like the days leading up to and during your first year move into college is always bogged down with loads of events, work, and…well, unexpected unfortunate events. Unfortunately, one of those unfortunate events (in a series of unfortunate events, of course) for me was having my camera lose all of my pictures (including the ones for my last Summer China 2010 Scrapbook Post #3: Fashion) before I could upload them. Yep. What’s even worse is that my camera has gone completely nuts and various buttons and knobs on the thing won’t even work now. So I guess that’s bye bye to China Scrapbook. :(
To make up for my lack of useful posts lately, I’ve decided to do a nice little book review on Picking Cotton, a non-fiction novel by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton. We read this book for our Summer Reading Program at my college (which I currently now attend, YAY!) and participated in small group discussions today. Here is a summary as well as my thoughts and some of the points that my group touched base on today.
Summary: This book is fairly new, and is about a young woman who was sexually assaulted/raped at knifepoint by a young black man. She was able to escape and put the man named Ronald Cotton, whom she believed to have been the rapist, in jail after she identified him and they went through trial. Then, eleven years later, the woman realizes that Cotton is the wrong man and did not commit the crime that he’d served jail for for over a decade. This woman is Jennifer.
This is a memoir written not like a biography or autobio, but an actual story written from two points of view: Ronald’s and Jennifer’s. What I think really made the book a success was the way it was structured and written. Not only were the scenes written in easy-to-follow language, but they were also portrayed in a way that had a strong visual effect as well as emotional appeal on the human mind and heart. The book is divided into chapters, and the chapters are divided further into larger sections; the sections are alternated between Jennifer’s and Ronald’s different points of view. Throughout the book, Jennifer and Ronald are essentially going through the same trial but they each experience it in a different way.
Both of them were truly hurt and had lost several years of their lives. For eleven long and difficult years, Ronald had to endure prison life, all the while having to stay sane and remember, I’m innocent. Although Jennifer wasn’t physically chained up, her heart, mind, and soul were prisoners nonetheless. She spent years trying to get over what had happened to her, yet she never could…not until she met Ronald eleven years later and he told her he’d forgiven her for the mistake she had made. But in the end, they ultimately teach each other the power of forgiveness.
I truly admire Jennifer and Ronald, each for different reasons. It’s not easy having others not believe you when you tell the truth, and it’s so easy to submit to all the wrongdoing that goes around you when you are in jail, especially when you’re in there due to injustice. It amazed me how Ronald was able to get through eleven years of Hell–eleven years away from family and freedom–and have the will and strength to keep on believing in himself and forgive the mistakes that had given him so much pain. And many people say Jennifer didn’t suffer as much because she wasn’t in jail or anything, plus the police were on her side…but she did.
I don’t want to give away too much, but I just have to say that such a complicated situation is actually very common in America…but not every victim has been able to truly tell his or her story the way Ronald and Jennifer have. The day we had the group discussions about Picking Cotton, we went to one of our many auditoriums and finally were able to hear Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton speak for themselves as they answered student questions about what it was like to go through the experience, why they did certain things according to the book, and much more. Afterwards, students were able to wait in the lobby to get their book signed by the two authors!! Luckily, I was the first one at the table to get my signatures.
It was really amazing being able to see them in person. You know, after you read a good storybook in which the characters truly seem like they’re real, you wish the whole story and all the characters were true…but they usually aren’t. Well, Picking Cotton is all facts and the characters are as real as you and me. And so it was really amazing to see those characters for who they were in real life…to have those words you read and the characters you imagined in your head be put forth in front of you. The excitement and bubbliness and inspiration that bursts within you at that moment is incredibly AWESOME, and I feel so lucky to have experienced that.
I highly recommend this book and give it a 10/10. I don’t think I’ve ever written a non-fiction novel that was as gripping and beautiful as this one. If you’re interested in law or forensic science, definitely read this book. If you’re simply just looking for a good read that will leave you thinking about it for days on end, even after you finish it, definitely read this book. You won’t regret it.
Here are some links if you’d like to know more: