Review: The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton | More2Read
 

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton

 


The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row (Oprah’s Book Club Summer 2018 Selection) by Anthony Ray Hinton (Author), Lara Love Hardin (Author), Bryan Stevenson (Introduction)

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.


Praise for The Sun Does Shine

“Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for opposing a racist system in South Africa. Anthony Ray Hinton spent 30 years on death row because a racist system still exists in America. Both emerged from their incarceration with a profound capacity to forgive. They are stunning examples of how the most horrendous cruelty can lead to the most transcendent compassion. The Sun Does Shine is both a cautionary tale for all who think that a great nation can easily forget its past and inspiring proof of the inability to condemn a man’s capacity for hope, love, and joy. An amazing and heartwarming story, it restores our faith in the inherent goodness of humanity.”
– Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“No one I have represented has inspired me more than Anthony Ray Hinton and I believe his compelling and unique story will similarly inspire our nation and readers all over the world.”
– Bryan Stevenson, New York Times Bestselling Author, Just Mercy

“If there is ever a story that needs to be told, it is this one. Anthony Ray Hinton is extraordinary, an example to us all of the power of the human spirit to rise above complete injustice. He is using his experience as a way to turn the broken criminal justice system upside down. He is a brilliant storyteller, and his book will make people laugh, cry, and change their own lives for the better. It will also inspire people to never accept the unacceptable, like the death penalty. The Sun Does Shine will be a book that people all around the world will never forget.”
– Richard Branson

“I’ve met Anthony Ray Hinton, and he’s an extraordinary man. He stands out among exonerees (and I know hundreds of them) for his dignity and gentle soul encased in his massive frame. His story is important and compelling. Bryan Stevenson, a national treasure and central character in this story, fought tirelessly for over fifteen years and won a rare and landmark case in the United States Supreme Court. The Sun Does Shine is the gripping and inspirational story that the public has been waiting for.”
– Barry Scheck, Attorney, Director of the Innocence Project

“[The Sun Does Shine], collaboratively written with Hardin, is a troubling, moving, and ultimately exalting journey through the decades Hinton lived under the threat of death while an unjust system that refused to acknowledge mistakes failed him repeatedly.”
Booklist, starred review

“A memoir of spectacular grace…as moving and inspiring as memoirs get.”
Garden & Gun

“An urgent, emotional memoir from one of the longest-serving condemned death row inmates to be found innocent in America. … A heart-wrenching yet ultimately hopeful story about truth, justice, and the need for criminal justice reform.”
Kirkus, starred review

“In this intense memoir, [Anthony Ray] Hinton recounts his three-decade nightmare: awaiting execution for crimes he didn’t commit. … Hinton’s life is one of inspiration, which he wonderfully relays here in bitingly honest prose.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A testament to the power of faith and the strength of hope, The Sun Does Shine is an unforgettable and timely read that illuminates the long overdue need for criminal justice reform in America.”
Bustle

“This powerful memoir is testament to a man who survived against all odds and showed how powerful the human spirit can be.”
The Malestrom

“Hinton’s ability to speak about the injustices he faces with such poise and composure is his greatest gift.”
The Harvard Crimson

“A must for anyone involved in criminal justice. Suggested reading for anyone interested in learning more about death row and its horrors.”
Library Journal, starred review

The Sun Does Shine could be the most impressive book you’ll lay eyes on.”
Houston Style Magazine

“Illuminating and emotionally powerful, simple and complex, and destined to become a classic in American prison literature.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Review

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
-Fyodor Dostoevsky, from The House of the Dead 

“Race, poverty, inadequate legal assistance, and prosecutorial indifference to innocence conspired to create a textbook example of injustice. I can’t think of a case that more urgently dramatizes the need for reform than what has happened to Anthony Ray Hinton.
—Bryan Stevenson

“Some things you must always be unable to bear. Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have got. Not for kudos and not for cash: your picture in the paper nor money in the bank either. Just refuse to bear them.”
-from Intruder In The Dust by William Faulkner

“Alabama could steal my future and my freedom, but they couldn’t steal my soul or my humanity. And they most certainly couldn’t steal my sense of humor.”

“Death Row, Holman Prison. Where love and hope went to die.”
– Anthony Ray Hinton

From Foreword by Bryan Stevenson

“On April 3, 2015, Anthony Ray Hinton was released from prison after spending nearly thirty years in solitary confinement on Alabama’s death row. Mr. Hinton is one of the longest-serving condemned prisoners facing execution in America to be proved innocent and released.”

“Mr. Hinton grew up poor and black in rural Alabama. He learned to be a keen and thoughtful observer of the harsh realities of Jim Crow segregation and the way racial bias constrained the lives of people of color. He was taught by his remarkable mother to never see race or judge people because of their color.

“Mr. Hinton presents the narrative of a condemned man shaped by a painful and torturous journey around the gates of death, who nonetheless remains hopeful, forgiving, and faithful.”

 

The wrong guy they had, they had stolen thirty years, they had taken his opportunity away to be with his mother in her last days. Nothing, nothing can replace that, his mother, mothers greatness, her words and inspiration in his quieter hours with death before him in the dead of night kept him through all. The whole in justice dealt to him.
Within this book you will find his endurance, his hope and empowerment to others, his opening the doors to discussion through books with many men, ones that would never share the room together in the outside world due to hate, race, and violence.
Complexities, injustices, hope and books and with that as seeing that from the books you are not alone as Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald said,
“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
He would not bow down against injustice and the idea that they would break him, he would not let them steal his soul and humanity or break it, and so he remembers what he was taught by his mother and keeps himself together thirty years an unbelievable and heartfelt tell. A great quote comes to mind with the example of Anthony Ray Hinton,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness That most frightens us.” – Marianne Williamson (Our Deepest Fear).
Many things prove his innocence, passing a lie detector test, and the gun they used against him had not been fired for twenty years.
This whole unsettling and empowering truth work layered out in lucid form, reading with every word hanging the reader on to this life before Anthony Ray Hinton, and tears will fall to the unbelievable strength of the self and the justice eventually delivered.
The human heart at battle with itself again with the whole complexities of injustices dealt to him, a great profoundly disturbing experience, an enduring read to re-read. Alternative title would be, “An American Tragedy Where the Sun does Shine for One.”

Empathy successfully to be built within the reader here of what is happening right now, many waiting for death, without even committing a crime, false imprisonment seems to be something coming back into narrative time and again.


Excerpts

“My only crime was being born black, or being born black in Alabama. Everywhere I looked in this courtroom, I saw white faces—a sea of white faces.”

“I don’t care what people say about you—you don’t drop down to their level. You always treat someone better than what they treat you. Always.”

“God knows my mama didn’t raise no killer.”

“Everything my mom and dad taught me was a lie, Ray. Everything they taught me against blacks, it was a lie.”

“When you are forced to live out your life in a room the size of a bathroom—a room that’s five feet wide by seven feet long—you have plenty of time to replay the moments of your life. To imagine what might have happened if you had run when they came chasing you. Or if you had gotten that baseball scholarship. Or married that girl when you had the chance. We all do it. Replay the horrific moments of our lives and reimagine them by going left instead of right, being this person instead of that person, making different choices. You don’t have to be locked up to occupy your mind and your days trying to rewrite a painful past or undo a terrible tragedy or make right a horrible wrong. But pain and tragedy and injustice happen—they happen to us all.”

“I was guilty. Hell, as far as the police and the prosecutor and the judge and even my own defense attorney were concerned, I was born guilty. Black, poor, without a father most of my life, one of ten children—it was actually pretty amazing I had made it to the age of twenty-nine without a noose around my neck.”

“I had been called names before and I would be called names again, but I just let the names roll off me like water rolling over a rock.”

“The assistant manager of a Southside restaurant died last night after being shot twice in the head early yesterday morning by a robber. John Davidson, Capital murder warrants were issued yesterday charging a suspect in a Bessemer robbery and shooting with the slayings of two Birmingham fast-food restaurant managers.”

“..whether you did or didn’t do it. In fact, I believe you didn’t do it. But it doesn’t matter. If you didn’t do it, one of your brothers did. And you’re going to take the rap. You want to know why?”
I just shook my head.
“I can give you five reasons why they are going to convict you. Do you want to know what they are?”
I shook my head, no, but he continued.
“Number one, you’re black. Number two, a white man gonna say you shot him. Number three, you’re gonna have a white district attorney. Number four, you’re gonna have a white judge. And number five, you’re gonna have an all-white jury.”
He paused and smiled at me then.
“You know what that spell?
I shook my head, but I knew what he was saying. You couldn’t be raised in the South and not know what he was saying. My whole body went numb, like I was under an ice-cold shower in the middle of winter.
“Conviction. Conviction. Conviction. Conviction. Conviction.” He pointed to each finger on his left hand and then he held up the number five and turned his palm toward me.”

“Death. In that moment, I felt my whole life shatter into a million jagged pieces around me. The world was fractured and broken, and everything good in me broke with it. Two months later, right before Judge Garrett affirmed and read aloud the official death sentence, I told them what I hoped to be true—God would reopen this case, and if not, they could take my life, but they could never, ever touch my soul.”

“There was death and ghosts everywhere. The row was haunted by the men who died in the electric chair. It was haunted by the men who chose to kill themselves rather than be killed. Their blood flowed in the cement cracks of the floors like a slow river, until it dried and then split apart under the weight of the creatures that crept over it in the night. The roaches had blood on them, and they carried it from cell to cell. The rats nibbled at the dried blood and carried it back into the walls and vents where it blew around in the air like darkened dust and settled over us all.”

“Freedom was a ghost that haunted us all on the row, but most of all we were haunted by a past we could not go back and change. Loss and grief and a cold madness that defied words floated in the grime and filth that we were all coated in. Hell was real, and it had an address and a name.
Death Row, Holman Prison.”

“I’m going to tell the world about how there was men in here that mattered. That cared about each other and the world. That were learning how to look at things differently.” “You’re going to tell it on the mountain, Ray?” Jesse asked. The other guys laughed. “I’m going to tell it on every single mountain there is. I’m going to push that boulder right on up and over that giant, and I’m going to stand at the top of that hill, and on the top of every mountain I can find, and I’m going to tell it. I’m going to tell my story, and I’m going to tell your story. Hell, maybe I will even write a book and tell it like that.”

“Only six guys were allowed to join me in book club, but every guy on the row was now allowed to have two books besides the Bible in his cell.”

“We weren’t planning a riot or an escape; we were five black guys and two white guys talking about a James Baldwin book. Perfectly normal. Nothing to see here.”

“Henry was a white man who’d lynched a black teenage boy. I was a guy who would blow a man’s brains out for a few hundred dollars”

“..the books talked about race in the South, and Henry at first had shied away from the subject, almost pretending not to know how unfairly blacks were treated until we called him out on it. He was ashamed of how he had been brought up and ashamed of the beliefs that had brought him to the row.”

“There are no words for how that scars you. There are no words for how every death kills a little piece of you off. Your soul dies a little, your mind cracks a bit, your heart pounds and bleeds as a piece of it tears off. A mind, and a heart, and a soul could only take so much.”

“Life was a crazy, strange mix of tragedy and sorrow and triumph and joy.”



 




Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 31 December 2018