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The criminal justice system and forgiveness

Mixed reviews for “Picking Cotton” book and event

Photo by Farhin Lilywala. Ronald Cotton signs books for students after the event.
Photo by Farhin Lilywala.
Ronald Cotton signs books for students after the event.

By: Barry Switay

On Nov. 12, GPC students, faculty and the general public had the opportunity to attend two speaking events with authors Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton of this year’s GPC Reads book selection, “Picking Cotton.”

Students attending the Clarkston event at 2 p.m. had some mixed reviews of the book, although many students found the event interesting.

When interviewed after the Clarkston event, film student Tim Cowan said, “It was the first non-fiction book that I really enjoyed.”

He liked the presentation because he felt that in person the authors went into detail they left out of the book, but he was disappointed Thompson-Cannino didn’t really “talk about forgiving herself.”

Computer science major Cecil Mills travelled from the Newton campus because he thought it was an “outstanding book,” and it showed that “the criminal justice system is not perfect.”

Further, he appreciated the “two different perspectives of the criminal justice system.”

Some students attended the event without knowledge of the book’s topic. Clarkston Psychology major Will Leftridge had not read “Picking Cotton” before the event.

“I thought the book was about slavery,” said Leftridge. “I didn’t see the rape story coming.”

He wants to read the book now and realizes, “I have a long way to go to forgive people.”

General studies major Deondra Henderson admitted “I wouldn’t have been able to forgive [Thompson-Cannino] if I was in [Cotton’s] shoes.”

While the students interviewed demon- strated a generally positive reception of the book, an anonymous GPC faculty member reported that several students they encoun- tered this semester had either been wrongfully incarcerated or raped themselves and did not want to read about it again. This faculty member also pointed out that the book was not very well written, and poorly edited. They felt that the book was not fitting for the college level.

The talk followed the book’s first two sections: Thompson-Cannino told her side of the story in much personal detail. Then, Cotton told his.

Cotton also entertained the audience with a song he wrote as a part of his retelling. Both authors were present to sign books before the event, giving students the opportunity to briefly meet them.

While students had been informed since the beginning of the semester that a book signing would follow, Thompson-Cannino had to leave immediately after the event.

She was only available to sign books for students who were able to make it to the presentation before it started.

Cotton stayed after to sign student’s books.

There was no question and answer period following the Clarkston event, so students who may have had questions for the authors were unable to ask them.

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