Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Picking Cotton-Injustice, Memory, Forgiveness & Reconciliation - A Book Review



Our Memoir of

Injustice and



  Jennifer Thompson-Cannino

  & Ronald Cotton


  Erin Torneo

Reviewed By

  Geoffrey W. Sutton


I was interested in Picking Cotton for several reasons. As a psychologist and researcher I have helped people deal with interpersonal offenses for over 45 years. My focus has been on forgiveness and reconciliation. But there are more lessons in this book. In view of recent events the book serves to illustrate social injustice and racism. In addition, we see the serious problem of faulty eyewitness testimony evident in the experiments of Elizabeth Loftus. So for these reasons, I recommend this book to a broad spectrum of readers. And would especially recommend it to my colleagues in counselling and mental health.

The book opens with the horrible account of Jennifer’s rape. She’s a young white college student in bed in her own home. Somehow she concentrated on his features—then, when the opportunity arose, she ran to a neighbor who called the police. As the story unfolds, Jennifer is examined at a hospital and eventually reviews a lineup of seven black men. She identifies Ronald Cotton—hence the title, Picking Cotton. Jennifer was a confident witness but she was wrong with devastating effects.

In Part 2, Ronald Cotton tells his story. He borrowed a neighbor’s car for his required appearance at the Burlington Police Department. It was the last time he would be a free man for eleven years.

The details of Ronald Cotton's struggle for justice reveal the horrors systemic injustice and prejudice. Ron’s path to freedom is long and tortuous. Eventually, Ron is released following the identification of the man who actually raped Jennifer. We learn how Ron and Jennifer meet and later work to address injustice. Their meeting also led to forgiveness and reconciliation.

Stories like Picking Cotton have brought to light the importance of psychological science work on the limitations of eyewitness testimony and bias in police lineups. (Read more about memory and the misinformation effect). In the aftermath of Picking Cotton, much of the focus has appropriately been on the problems on eyewitness testimony and social injustice. However, the importance of forgiveness and reconciliation to wellness adds additional value to Picking Cotton.


BUY  Picking Cotton eBook on Google Play

 Cite this review

Sutton, G.W. (2020, December 1). Picking Cotton-Injustice, Memory, Forgiveness & Reconciliation. Sutton Reviews. https://suttonreviews.suttong.com/2020/12/picking-cotton-injustice-memory.html 

Read more stories and psychological research about Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

Book Reference

Thompson-Cannino, J. & Cotton, R. (2009). Picking Cotton: Our memoir of injustice and redemption. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

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