Grace Will Lead Us Home was horrific and painful at times, but also such an important book to read. This true story begins at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, where members of an evening bible-study group welcomed Dylan Roof, a young white man, to join their discussion. Roof opened fire on the group, killing 9 African American members of the church, including the pastor. You will get to know each of the victims and the author tries to give readers a sense of what it was like to be in that church during their final moments.
The targeted church is one of the oldest African American churches in the US, and is known to be a center for human rights discussions and organization. From a variety of statements made by Roof, it is clear that the killing was motivated by his racism.
Killing, particularly in any house of worship, is insidious. But the most remarkable part of the story is the forgiveness given by some members of the affected families just two days after the shooting. The grace publicly displayed by these families offered me hope – and maybe will for you too – that we can come together as a common humanity and word towards a greater good. The fact is that we are better together – whether we are bringing our diverse talents and ideas together to discover new innovation or continuous improvement in the workplace or we are using that same diversity to improve our neighborhoods, schools, churches, and other community centers.
The book was written by Jennifer Berry Hawes, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who works for the Charleston Post and Courier. Her articles have focused on religion for the last 10 years. Hawes interviewed survivors from the bible study, victim family members, first responders and others, ensuring that the story was captured as well as it could be.
My only negative comment is that the book was political at times. I understand that gun rights and gun violence is very much tied to today’s American politics. Being from the Midwest, though, I also understand that pulling politics into the discussion will turn some people away. Everyone, regardless of party affiliation, should read this important story – in my view, it would have been more effective for the author to tell the story and let readers draw their own conclusions about what we should do about guns in America.
I highly recommend this book. In the US, we are seeing too many acts of gun violence, and better understanding the stories of the victims and their families will help us come together and make positive change.
In honor of Black History Month, I am reading books about African Americans. What are you doing to celebrate Black History Month?
Do you have a story that you can share about racism? How can we eliminate racism?
What other books have you read that really made you think about people who are different from you?