The Hardest Book I Ever Read

“You’ve been reading that book for like a month,” my husband Les said.

Photo by AJ Yorio on Unsplash

Yeah, he’s right. I’ve dragged it around, reading it. Slowly, ever so slowly. Painfully even.

It was a slog. A slog through dangerous terrifying territory.

It was hard to read more than a few pages. My heart ached.

But I was determined to finish it. I needed to finish it.

And so I did.

I wasn’t going to blog about it. I logged the title on my reading list and put the book on the shelf.

I wasn’t going to blog about it because it isn’t an easy topic. It’s hard to distill into a short blog post. And its premise is so radical that, unless their lives have been personally touched by it, people will either say, “Huh? That cannot be true,” or outright reject it as propaganda. And they will unsubscribe. (Trust me, it happens every time I write on a social justice topic.) Hey, you may unsubscribe. And no matter what stories I tell myself, each unsubscribe feels like a personal rejection (no pressure).

But God wouldn’t let it go. I kept dwelling on thoughts from The New Jim Crow I believe he planted in my head.

  • Each time I read an arrest report for drugs found during a traffic stop, I wonder.
  • When I forget to use my turn signal or accidentally cross the line on the road, I question if I would have been stopped if I were African American.
  • While the man in Panera fills out a job application with the help of what I assume from the conversation is his parole officer, I wonder if he already knows how slim his chances of gaining employment are because he must check the felon box.
  • I lie in bed and wonder what it would be like to be permanently marked by a drug conviction at a young age and have it be used for the rest of my life—long after I’ve done my time—to keep me from meaningful employment, housing, community, and legal recourse.
  • I get angry thinking about how the profit factor—for police departments, district attorneys (as evidenced by the luxury SUV scandal occurring right now in my own county), and private prison companies and their suppliers—has dramatically contributed to a permanent underclass and imagine how hard it will be to fight that profit motive.

I could try to list some facts Michelle Alexander presents in the book, but I cannot do it justice. If you want facts right now, you can access this list from The Center for Law and Justice.

Instead I will suggest you exercise your brain and open your heart and read the book—even if it takes you a month (or more) to slog through it.

Then dwell on it as you will. Or as God wills.



10 thoughts on “The Hardest Book I Ever Read”

  1. Looking forward to reading this book and being challenged. As many answers are so hopeless, with “what can I do about it?” Ringing through my brain, I am further comforted by the knowledge that God has it under control. Even though it seems completely and utterly horrible and hopeless.

  2. Dearest Carol,
    A friend texted me about this blog and was very convicted – in a good way – as she read it. And then I read it. Just want to say thank you for following the Spirit and bringing this conversation to the fore. It is important to be aware and/or awakened to these things that we hoped were behind us but in this fallen world, sadly, they are not. I will be looking at the list you gave as a link. Thank you for continuing to be a herald for truth – even when it is uncomfortable. That is the mark of a true prophet. Well done, sister friend.
    Blessings and love to you always, Norma

  3. Yes, I do think of those who have done their jail time and wonder who will hire them. Seems so unfair. One time I was asked if I had been in jail cause I had long gaps on my resume. I said the appropriate No and held my tongue back from asking if someone who had done their time could be hired. Just my Christian thoughts

  4. While in school, my son’s required reading included a book titled “Walk Two Moons” and it was certainly a favorite, not only because of his loving nature but what the book embodied. “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins” is a powerful statement in the book. The words and theme of this book send a message of EMPATHY, which if we would all allow ourselves to be part of that emotion, it would enable us to treat others with kindness and understanding because we are ALL God’s children, and He loves us EQUALLY, and we should be following His example!!! It saddens me that only when an issue affects an individual personally can it be seen as an injustice, when those same injustices are happening to people of color every day, and we think nothing of it!!! I hate injustice!!! Thank you for bringing this issue to the forefront through this book.

    • Sounds like a powerful book, Karon. Thank you for sharing it and for your thoughts. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

  5. Thank you for not only reading the book but following the Spirit’s leading to write about it. This is a real issue in our society and there are no easy answers. Recidivism is high, not only because many who are released do not want to give up their addiction, but also because many fall back into that pattern simply because they face such a difficult road. They are overwhelmed, frightened, and use drugs as either an escape from reality or a way to make money when no one is willing to give them a chance and a honest job. After spending a year going into the Lebanon jail to meet with the women inmates, I am more convinced then ever than the system is broken. There are many organizations willing to go into the prison system and minister to inmates…. the problem is that there are very few who are willing or have the resources to help those who have been recently released to get back on their feet, stay away from drugs and alcohol and their old habits and patterns. I am amazed as I talk to the women I meet just how little real help there is once they are released.


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