Writing contest winners reflect a wide range of perceptions about the book “Just Mercy"

Intro By Maribeth Fischer | Illustrations by Patti Shreeve
From the May 2019 issue


Numerous poets, essayists and short story writers from five states — Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia — wrestled with the themes of redemption and justice in their entries to a writing contest related to the Rehoboth Reads project, offering wide-ranging perceptions of what exactly these words mean. That variety of responses is reflected in the winning entries on the following pages.

For poet Willie Schatz, redemption comes in the attempt to do what many might deem impossible, while for short story writer Andrew Kleinstuber, it occurs in the ritual of showing up — for a custody visit, for a job, for a friend. Redemption, in other words, happens a day, an hour, perhaps a song, at a time. For nonfiction writer Christina Weaver, redemption is a process of enduring, with dignity, the indignities of racism while holding on to the hope that this will one day change. Each of these winning entries, in fact, suggests that perseverance is a crucial aspect of redemption.  

The contest was sponsored by Delaware Beach Life and Rehoboth Reads, a project launched in December 2018 that promoted the citywide reading and discussion of a single book,“Just Mercy,” by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and a 1977 graduate of Cape Henlopen High School.“Just Mercy” is the often heartbreaking story of Stevenson’s ongoing battle against a broken justice system and the damage this system has wreaked upon countless lives. Although the book was chosen for its literary merit, ability to provoke discussion, and the local connection to Stevenson, writing contest participants were not asked to comment on the book or its subject matter, but simply to consider its themes of redemption and justice. 


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