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Review: Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton with Erin Torneo

Title: Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption
Author: Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton with Erin Torneo
Year Published: 2017

Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 287
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (NC)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she slept. She was able to escape, and eventually positively identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. Ronald insisted that she was mistaken--but Jennifer's positive identification was the compelling evidence that put him behind bars. After eleven years, Ronald was allowed to take a DNA test that proved his innocence. He was released after serving more than a decade in prison for a crime he never committed. Two years later, Jennifer and Ronald met face-to-face--and forged an unlikely friendship that changed both of their lives.

In their own words, Jennifer and Ronald unfold the harrowing details of their tragedy, and challenge our ideas of memory and judgment while demonstrating the profound nature of human grace and the healing power of forgiveness.

Review: I have heard about this book for a while now and am glad that I've finally gotten around to reading it. What a stunning story!

Narrative non-fiction is definitely a genre I enjoy reading; real life stories that read quickly like fiction where I learn something? Bring it on. And if the author(s) can tell me the intimate story of a couple people, but relate it to a larger issue, even better. Picking Cotton does just that.

The story of Jennifer and Ron is heartbreaking on both sides. Jennifer experienced an awful rape and assault in her home, but managed to have her wits about her throughout the entire ordeal. She memorized the assailant's face, his body, his voice. She managed to escape and report it to the police. She went to the hospital and had a rape kit done (twice). She did everything right. She was a stellar witness and was able to put the man who attacked her behind bars for life. Right?

Well, it's all true except the last part. Eye witness memory is a tricky thing and this book shows that. While Jennifer harbored hate for 13 years, Ron was surviving in prison, telling anyone who would listen, that he was innocent. Luckily DNA testing came to light in his 11th year in prison and it proved his innocence.

While their stories are fascinating on their own, part three of the book is remarkable as it tells how they became friends and work with the Innocence Project. Guilt and forgiveness are profound ideas and it is interesting and riveting to read about both in this book.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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