Several weeks ago, one of my favorite customers held up a copy of Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America and said, “How’d you like to get this guy to speak here?” I responded, “I’d give my eye teeth! Why, you got an in?” And I was surprised to learn that he did. I was informed that James Forman, Jr. had been teaching at Stanford all summer, and that he might be willing to speak at our store before he returned to Yale Law School, where he is a professor, in the fall. I sent him an email that very night, and received a prompt and gracious reply.
So, this is big, people. James Forman, Jr. is a very accomplished man. He was literally raised inside the civil rights movement by the activist father who shares his name. Before his time at Yale, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, worked as a public defender in Washington, DC, and co-founded a charter school for drop-outs. It’s a resume as accomplished as it is diverse. He’s taken all that lived experience and poured it into Locking Up Our Own.
Jennifer Senior opens her rave review in The New York Times with the following paragraph:
James Forman, Jr. divides his superb and shattering first book, “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,” into two parts: “Origins” and “Consequences.” But the temptation is to scribble in, before “Consequences,” a modifier: “Unforeseen.” That is truly what this book is about, and what makes it tragic to the bone: How people, acting with the finest of intentions and the largest of hearts, could create a problem even more grievous than the one they were trying to solve.
If you missed The Times review, perhaps you heard Mr. Forman on Fresh Air with Terry Gross a few weeks ago?
And now he’s coming to our neighborhood. It’s an honor to host a speaker of this caliber. Not everyone will agree with his ideas and conclusions—but what a privilege to have this conversation in our bookstore. Please join me in welcoming James Forman, Jr. on Wednesday, August 16th at 7:00pm.
And please share information about this event with anyone you think would be interested. I feel so strongly about bringing diverse voices into the bookstore, and I can only do this if you come out to hear them. It's a wonderful forum for us to come together as a community. So, I'll see you Wednesday, and I look forward to an enlightening discussion for all!
Bookshop West Portal
80 West Portal Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94127