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Dubuque Reads A Memoir of Injustice & Redemption

Carnegie-Stout Public Library
the authors - Ronald Cotton & Jennifer Thompson-Cannino
Credit Carnegie-Stout Public Library

An ambitious project begins Monday in Dubuque. The Carnegie-Stout Public Library has 4,000 copies of a book to give away as part of a community wide reading program that'll continue through early November.

The program is called All Community Reads, and Library Director Susan Henricks says the book is "Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption." It's the story of a woman who was raped, the man who was convicted and sent to prison, and his eventual release more than 10 years later when DNA evidence exonerated him. 

"How to come to terms with this is just overwhelming and she really struggled for a couple of years. It was just eating her up. She just could not live with herself knowing that she was responsible for putting this man in prison for so many years. She reached out to him and this is their story. They wrote the book together and it's about their process of forgiveness and healing."

The authors are Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, and they'll come to Dubuque for a joint appearance on November 5th.

Henricks calls it the perfect book to illustrate a theme for the reading program, "restorative justice," that was suggested by a library patron.

"Restorative justice is about repairing the harm that's been done and ultimately leading to forgiveness and healing."

She wanted to make sure as many people as possible in Dubuque could participate in this community reading program.

"I believe that if you want people to read the book, you've got to give them the book, instead of maybe having the library buy 20 copies and then you're on a waiting list. Just give the books to people and they'll have an extra book for their own personal collection but it'll encourage them to read it."

To have 4,000 copies available, Henricks spent the last year asking for donations and convincing the publisher to offer a substantial discount. 

Copies of "Picking Cotton" will be available, while the supply lasts, at several libraries, several Hy-Vee stores, and a few other locations in Dubuque. More information is available on the library's website.

A native of Detroit, Herb Trix began his radio career as a country-western disc jockey in Roswell, New Mexico (“KRSY, your superkicker in the Pecos Valley”), in 1978. After a stint at an oldies station in Topeka, Kansas (imagine getting paid to play “Louie Louie” and “Great Balls of Fire”), he wormed his way into news, first in Topeka, and then in Freeport Illinois.