posted on July 13, 2018 09:24
Hinton, Anthony Ray, et al. The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row. St. Martin's Press, 2018. Review by Frank Benefield, University of Tennessee
The Sun Does Shine is the story of Ray Anthony Hinton’s thirty year saga of being falsely convicted, imprisoned and sentenced to death. The Sun Does Shine is a real life illustration of the what the author Michelle Alexander calls “The New Jim Crow”, Alexander writes that “Like Jim Crow (and slavery), mass incarceration [the new Jim Crow] operates as a tightly networked system of laws, policies, customs, and institutions that operate collectively to ensure the subordinate status of a group defined largely by race” (Alexander 13). The judicial system failed Ray and the legal process that imprisoned him was long and at times uncertain but Ray preserved, remained resilient and was eventually restored and survived death row.
Ray’s story is not one of magic or some death defying escape but instead it is a story of humanity, hope, love, and forgiveness. Ray periodically escaped, figuratively, his imprisonment during his thirty year saga through his imagination and the pages of books. Of course, most of the time he was very present with his fellow inmates on death row. In this presence, Ray experienced a depth of love and compassion for his fellow human beings that is uncommon behind prison walls.
The Sun Does Shine is also a story of redemption, love and choices. We always have choices, some are more limited than others, but choices, nevertheless, Ray chose love and forgiveness. The lesson here is that our human desire to help others does not vanish behind prison walls and often if we can remain resilient, despite it all, and change our perspective the situation is likely to change us and our circumstances internally and externally.
In higher education we encounter students everyday who are experiencing the highs and lows of life and many manage to do well while others struggle under similar conditions. Ray’s story is a reminder that despite the most unthinkable of circumstances one can survive and even thrive.
The Sun Does Shine teaches us a few things about thriving during difficult times. First, no matter how difficult our circumstances might be we always have a choice in the way we will react or respond. Second, serving others despite our circumstances makes us happier and better able to manage our own lives. Lastly, Ray’s example shows us that working together with others is always better than trying to forge ahead by ourselves. The Ray’s story illustrates principles that are worth emulating by students and those who serve them in college and beyond.
Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New Press, 2012.