The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton – Book Review

Title: The Sun Does Shine

Author: Anthony Ray Hinton

Genre/Themes: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Civil Rights, Systemic Racism, Unjust Incarceration, Injustice, Death Row, Hope, Proving Innocence

Blurb from Goodreads

A powerful, revealing story of hope, love, justice, and the power of reading by a man who spent thirty years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit.

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 realised 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, humour, or joy.

My Review

“It was nothing less than a lynching – a legal lynching – but a lynching all the same. The anger I had tried so hard to stuff down and pray away was back in full force. My only crime was being born black, or being born black in Alabama. Everywhere I looked in his court room, I saw white faces – a sea of white faces. Wood walls, wood furniture, and white faces. The court room was impressive and intimidating. I felt like an uninvited guest in a rich man’s library. It’s hard to explain exactly what it feels like to be judged. There is a shame to it. Even when you know you’re innocent. It still feels like you are coated in something dirty and evil. It made me feel guilty. It made me feel like my very soul was put on trial and found lacking. When it seems like the whole world thinks you’re bad, it’s hard to hang on to your goodness. I was trying, though. Lord knows I was trying.”

Imagine being an innocent man incarcerated on death row for thirty years. How do you stomach the hate and racism fired at you from the beginning of your arrest and trial when the only thing they have to say you’re guilty is your skin colour and socioeconomic background? Imagine your polygraph being ignored, the ballistics “expert” your state-appointed lawyer can afford being legally blind in one eye…

There are so many wrongs in this memoir of Anthony Ray Hinton’s. So many injustices carried out against him. But the most wrong of all to me is the death penalty itself. I have never supported it, I do not support it and I will never support it. Everyone deserves the chance for redemption and to live out their days. Taking a life for a life is never okay.

This book is utterly moving. I read it through falling tears and stirred up feelings of anger and frustration…

“It’s hard not to wrap your life in a story – a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. A story that has logic and purpose and a bigger reason for why things turned out the way they did. I look for purpose in losing thirty years of my life. I try to make meaning out of something so wrong and so senseless. We all do. We have to find ways to recover after bad things happen. We have to make every ending be a happy ending. Every single one of us wants to matter. We want our lives and our stories and the choices we made or didn’t make to matter. Death row taught me that it all matters. How we live matters. Do we choose love or do we choose hate? Do we help or do we harm? Because there’s no way to know the exact second your life changes forever. You can only begin to know that moment by looking in the rearview mirror. And trust me when I tell you that you never, ever see it coming.”

Highly recommended.

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