By: Barry Switay
The GPC Reads committee has chosen “Picking Cotton” as the book of the year to encourage students to want to read, according to Mary Helen O’ Connor, GPC Reads faculty adviser.
Most of us have seen the “Picking Cotton” posters all over campus while on our way to class. Those who have taken the time to read the book probably recognize why the GPC Reads committee chose it this year.
In case you haven’t had time to pick it up yet, “Picking Cotton” is the true story of a sexual assault on co-author Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and the wrongful conviction and eventual exoneration of co-author Ronald Cotton.
Due mostly to Thompson-Cannino’s eyewitness testimony, Cotton was convicted twice in North Carolina and sentenced to life plus 54 years for a crime he did not commit.
Cotton was then released after having served 10.5 years in prison.
The book is divided into three sections.
Thompson-Cannino’s story details her traumatic rape and the emotional struggle she faced in trying to find justice. She explains how difficult it was for her to find peace of mind in the years after her assault and the unfortunate reality that most around her were unable to grasp the nature of what she had and was still going through.
Cotton’s story walks the reader through the events of his accusation and subsequent trial. He gives the reader a detailed picture of the struggle of prison life, and his difficult decade-long battle to gather the evidence that would eventually set him free.
The final section of the book outlines the friendship forged between the two co-authors.
While it paints a very intimate picture of rape, wrongful conviction and exoneration, the book is especially powerful because of the immense capacity for forgiveness that emerges from both the co-authors’ experiences.
While both authors were harmed in ways that tragically impacted their lives, their courage and motivation to use their experience to help others is what ultimately makes the book a story of hope.