Friday, September 23, 2011
Tolson 4 TEARS Reviews "Picking Cotton"
Review of Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton with Erin Torneo
Picking Cotton is co-authored by a victim of rape and the man who was falsely accused of the crime, with the assistance of writer Erin Torneo. The format alternates from Jennifer’s to Ronald’s perspectives and the story reads like a documentary.
Picking Cotton opens with a “happily ever after” prologue that took decades to reach. The interim was an excruciating journey of mistakes and misery. Within the story, there are racial issues to explore, as well as pros and cons in the criminal justice system.
The story starts with Jennifer’s point of view. After briefly establishing her routines and relationships for the readers, we see how her college life is immeasurably altered when she is raped. Jennifer endures the examination at the hospital; she has to repeatedly tell the details to detectives; she faces the disengaged attitudes of her family and boyfriend. In these relationships, the reader sees a victim-blaming society in action: Jennifer’s mother wonders if what she wore had something to do with being attacked; Jennifer’s boyfriend asks her if she enjoyed it. Jennifer courageously moves through the legal system, and eventually moves on.
On the local news, Ronald sees that the police are searching for him as a suspect. Only twenty-two years old, his simple life becomes immeasurably complicated when he is arrested. He is treated as though he were already found guilty. Ronald is equally courageous as he moves through a legal system that is out to get him, no matter what. Ronald spends more than a decade in prison, acclimating to the dismal culture of those incarcerated for life. He is guilty until DNA proves him innocent. He has to start over.
This book needed to be written so that readers witness the capacity of human will, the fate from human error, and the resiliency of spirit from both sides of the story.
Review completed by Lynn C. Tolson, author of Beyond the Tears: A True Survivor's Story