Oprah’s Book Club has made its next selection: The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row.
As the title certainly indicates, the memoir is an alternately harrowing and inspiring read by Anthony Ray Hinton, a man who spent nearly 30 years on death row for a crime he didn’t commit. He was released in 2015 and now speaks widely on prison reform and the power of faith and forgiveness. The Sun Does Shine was released in March of this year.
“It’s a new selection that I am so passionate about,” Oprah Winfrey said in her official selection announcement, which you can watch above. “Over the years I’ve chosen many great novels, very few memoirs, for my Book Club. But this story reads like an epic novel. And it is all true.”
Earlier this year, Winfrey selected the acclaimed novel An American Marriage by Tayari Jones for her Book Club. (Read Jones’ interview about being chosen with EW here.) That book, too, explored themes of racial and legal injustice, tracing the effect of one man’s wrongful imprisonment on his marriage. The book went on to become a New York Times best-seller and drew rave reviews.
As for The Sun Does Shine: In 1985, 29-year-old Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested in Alabama and charged with two counts of capital murder. Hinton knew he hadn’t committed the crime and was convinced the truth would prove his innocence, and he would be acquitted. When he was convicted and sentenced to the electric chair, he almost lost hope. As his memoir chronicles, the justice system in the South was stacked against a poor black man. Hinton spent his first three years on death row at Holman State Prison in agonizing silence — despairing and angry at all those who had sent an innocent man to his death.
But as Hinton began to find his spirit again, he resolved to fight. For the next 27 years he was a beacon of hope, for himself, and for his fellow inmates, 54 of whom were executed during his time in prison. Finally, with the help of attorney and Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson, Hinton won his release in 2015.
“There was a time I thought I’d never see the sun again,” Ray Hinton said in a statement, of Oprah selection his book. “I really believe my mother prepared me, and she always told me to keep the faith. I worked really hard and tried to make a book that would inspire people to do better, learn how to forgive one another and move on. What happened to me, I don’t ever want to happen to anyone else. I’m just trying to be a little tiny light in God’s world.”
While Winfrey doesn’t often choose nonfiction books, this selection represents her ongoing effort to shine a light on stories of mass incarceration and those who have been most intensely affected by it. A conversation between Oprah and Ray Hinton, Oprah’s Book Club: Freedom After 30 years on Death Row, will air Sunday, June 10, at 11 a.m. ET on OWN. The pair also appeared on CBS This Morning on Tuesday, the day of the announcement.
The Sun Does Shine is available for purchase.