Mizzou Law began the One Read Program in 2016 – the year after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri. Everywhere on campus, we were having difficult conversations and struggling to hear each other and to be heard in return. This is a vital skill for attorneys. In the practice of law it is important for attorneys to be exposed to and aware of aspects of the world beyond their own daily experiences. To facilitate this understanding, and also to strengthen our community at Hulston Hall, Mizzou Law started a One Read program. Law students, staff, and faculty are invited to read a particular book that relates to law, the legal profession, or legal education, and touches on important issues of the moment. We believe that a One Read program strengthens our community within Hulston Hall by providing a focus for conversations and events within the law school exploring the issues of race and the experience of “otherness.”
Over the past few years, our One Read program has led us to read books that consider otherness from different vantage points. We considered the justice offered to the marginalized and impoverished in Just Mercy, by attorney Bryan Stevenson. We opened our eyes to the Japanese-American internment experience in the United States during World War II by reading Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II by Richard Reeves. We looked at the effects of the “War on Drugs” and the resulting mass incarceration in The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. As we read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacksby Rebecca Skloot, we explored health care, power, and self-determination. Last year we read Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance’s compassionate yet provocative account of poverty in Appalachia and his tumultuous childhood.
The title for the 2020-21 academic year will be Ijeoma Oluo’s best-seller, So You Want to Talk about Race. Oluo conveys experiences from her own life to raise a wide array of conversations about race and racism that are “necessary and urgent . . . for people to have in good faith.” As one review states, her empathetic yet blunt writing provides all of us with “language to engage in clear, constructive, and confident dialogue with each other about how to deal with racial prejudices and biases.”