JMRL’s Same Page Program – March 2021

JMRL invites all book lovers to participate in the Same Page program throughout March, providing residents with the opportunity to read and discuss a single book within their community by an author appearing at the Virginia Festival of the Book.

Join your neighbors in exploring the themes of Jacqueline Woodson’s “Brown Girl Dreaming”, including touching and powerful poems about her childhood and growing awareness about the Civil Rights movement.

Same Page begins on Monday, March 1 and all JMRL branches will be offering free copies of “Brown Girl Dreaming” (while supplies last). Please contact your local branch to pick one up.

Same Page is generously funded by the Friends of JMRL, supported by the Art and Jane Hess Fund of the Library Endowment and Virginia Festival of the Book (a program of Virginia Humanities).

For more information about upcoming Same Page events, visit

Celebrating Black Trans Lives with JMRL

On Saturday, February 27 at 6:30pm, JMRL and partners will be hosting a live streaming of the award-winning documentary Mama Gloria followed immediately afterward by a Q&A with legendary trans activist, Gloria Allen.

Celebrate Black History and Black Trans Lives at this special community event.

“JMRL is honored to partner with such amazing organizations [listed below] to help highlight and address the challenges confronting Black Trans women, and the transgender community at large,” said Evan Stankovics, Northside Library Adult Programming Librarian.

“We are delighted that Gloria Allen, an activist and icon, will be joining us to enlighten, motivate, and inspire us during this special event.”

The documentary, Mama Gloria, focuses on Gloria Allen, a trailblazing 74-year-old Black transgender activist who started a charm school for homeless trans youth and is now aging with joy and grace.

At a time when Black transgender women face escalating violence and make up the majority of transgender people murdered each year, Gloria’s story is an inspiring portrait of aging seldom seen.

“Everyone no matter who you are should always be open to learn more about our Trans Community. Being open and willing will start the healing process and gain a better understanding of our past and current struggles,” said Charley Burton, Trans Community Outreach Coordinator for Cville Pride.

JMRL would like to thank our incredible partner organizations for making this event possible: Cville Pride, PFLAG, Black Transwomen Inc, Diversity In Recovery, and Charlottesville Trans Support Group.

Register online at or call 434.973.7893 x3.

“Each of Us Is More Than the Worst Thing We’ve Ever Done.”

The Central Library Brown Baggers book group met virtually on February 18 to discuss Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Steveson. Our shared reading this month could not have been more timely: on Monday, February 22, Virginia officially become the 23rd state to abolish the death penalty. 

Just Mercy is a fast-paced informative memoir about Bryan’s intense, consequential career as he worked around the clock for the nonprofit organization he founded in 1989, the Equal Justice Initiative. It is also a compilation of numerous court cases and mishandlings of justice. Chapter after chapter, Bryan throws us straight into the deep end as we meet and quickly come to know men, women, and children who find themselves in desperate need of legal help; they have been victimized by the justice system due to their race, class, mental illness, or lack of support. The book is threaded together by one lengthy and high-profile murder case. Through the dual modes of storytelling, readers become acclimated to juggling dozens of high stakes cases, persevering for years on end for the cause of a single man, and Stevenson’s own beliefs about the power of compassion and mercy. 

When considering if we “liked” the book, we acknowledged the emotional difficulty in reading such a book about brokenness. Yet phrases like “hard to read” came as swiftly as “important to read” and “learned a lot.” We pondered the pairing of sadness and depression with hope and optimism. Few found this book to be a “depressing read,” because Stevenson was so active and engaged throughout the narrative. He was not always successful in his undertakings, but he continued to move forward and never quit working. Some readers described feeling overwhelmed (in an inspired sense) by Bryan Stevenson’s absolutely tireless work and his impressive rhetoric, reminiscent of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with religious and philosophical undertones. 

In discussing Just Mercy, a book that primarily dwells on the death penalty, we found it impossible to avoid confronting issues such as privatized, for-profit prison systems, mass incarceration, the lack of rehabilitation opportunities for convicts, and the disproportionate targeting and convicting of people of color. This book demanded to be felt fully and thought about. Many in our group faced personal reckonings with childhood experiences of ignorance. 

Bryan Stevenson is a unique individual: a bachelor who doesn’t plan to marry because he’s “busy doing other things” …how can we hold a candle to him? He is moving at the speed of light and actually changing the world — what can we do? Together we brainstormed options for those who want to make a difference but are also juggling family, work, and other responsibilities. 

  • Write letters and emails to government officials, agencies, and the like
  • Join committees and boards; get to know community resources and groups
  • Create initiatives within spaces you already frequent, like your book club! 
  • Education is where it all begins; never stop reading, and support educational institutions 

The Brown Baggers will meet again virtually on Thursday, March 11 at noon to discuss Red At the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson.* Please email for details on how to participate from your computer or phone.

*The Brown Baggers read Woodson’s book Brown Girl Dreaming for Same Page in March 2020, although the events were cancelled due to the pandemic. Woodson will be attending the Virginia Festival of the Book 2021, which is digital and open to all

Books Mentioned

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Just Mercy: Adapted for Young People by Bryan Stevenson


Just Mercy (2020)

13th (2016)

For Life (2020)


The Innocence Project at UVA