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Living Justice: Love, Freedom, and the Making of The Exonerated Paperback – September 12, 2006


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Capitalizing on a shifting trend in public attitudes about the death penalty in 2000, former actors Blank and Jensen decided to write an ensemble piece using the words of real people to highlight the legal flaws in the death penalty statute. The result was the play The Exonerated, about wrongly convicted men and women on death row throughout America. This passionate book explains how Blank and Jensen researched the work and concurrently tells the story of how their own relationship blossomed in the process. Initially worried about winning the confidence of the freed ex-convicts, Blank, a "pushy East Coaster," and Jensen, a self-absorbed Midwesterner, charmed and cajoled the suspicious and secretive group into revealing how the justice system shortchanged them by lack of hard evidence, legal miscues and racism. The authors illuminate each case and then explain how they assembled their findings into a script. The play's Broadway production, which starred Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Richard Dreyfuss and others, went on to receive critical acclaim; and the work recently appeared on Court TV. This book about its making is a fascinating, revealing memoir by a couple who were able to find meaning in their lives and bring light to a pressing issue in American society. (Mar. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Blank and Jensen integrate a few genres--social commentary, love story, and memoir--in this extraordinary book. Primarily, they chronicle the making of the acclaimed play The Exonerated. The substance of the play and the core of this book is the stories of individuals sentenced to death who, through various circumstances, were subsequently exonerated. Blank, a writer and actor, and Jensen, an actor, developed the play as an outgrowth of their social activism. Their interviews with exonerated men and women, of various racial and class backgrounds, provide compelling background. As these two white, college-educated liberals pursued their research, the process evolved into one of self-discovery. They chronicle the making of the play from its conception to its opening performance before former Illinois governor George Ryan, who enacted a moratorium on executions when he learned that many death-row inmates were wrongfully convicted. Blank and Jensen explore their own biases regarding regional, class, and racial differences; their personal stories lend another layer to the reality of social injustice. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (September 12, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743483464
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743483469
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #572,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By MSHagle on April 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A fierce, brilliant account of a political, artistic and personal quest: two young people in search of truth and justice end up finding love and adventure and the harsh realities of America's dark side. Blank's searing intelligence and total conviction for her cause make this book incredibly hard to put down, even as the truths it reveals are often hard to take. If you have seen "The Exonerated," you will love reading the stories behind the stories on stage or film. But even if you haven't seen it, there is much to glean here about the kind of guts required to make a difference as an artist or an activist in the world today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nicholas Hallett on March 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Jessica Blank's and Erik Jensen's joint memoir, "Living Justice," tells their story of how a desire to create awareness over an important--yet overlooked--issue in the American justice system blossomed from "Eureka!"-style concept into a beautifully realized theater piece called "The Exonerated," which has been performed all over the country and recently adapted for television, educated tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of people, and cited by legislators as an important force in death penalty ethics reform. Their story takes them on a roadtrip across the USA, interviewing people who were convicted of heinous crimes they did not commit, sentenced to death, but ultimately freed and exonerated over overwhelming post-trial evidence of their innocence. The passages dealing with these cases are the most effective parts of the book: informative with the power to disturb and inspire, much in the same way as the authors's play. But there is more to the book than information on the death penalty. Beautifully captured in "Living Justice" is the story of two actors and activists who find love and home within their collaboration, who discover what it feels like to make a change in the world and be reminded of that change in moving and affirming ways. The book is a must-read for fans of the play and students of the theater. The downtown NYC performance scene comes alive in the chapter about the play's opening night and subsequent celebrity-filled run at the Culture Project theater space. Also amazingly portrayed are the days just after 9/11 in which the nature of activism, patriotism, and the definition of justice was questioned by the world over. Amazingly, Ms. Blank and Mr.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Han-shan on March 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is a great story. It's about two young people falling in love while testing their own and each others' limits, researching and writing "The Exonerated," an excellent (and very influential) play about the fascinating, tragic, and ordinary people exonerated and released from death row. Erik and Jessica don't stumble down the rabbit-hole of the American criminal justice system. They climb down it step by step, confessing their fear and confusion, and insecurity that they have no idea what they're doing, and probably have no business doing it anyway. The book takes the reader along for the cross-country trip visiting with and interviewing the people whose stories became The Exonerated. There's lots of captivating background on the subjects of the play, and the authors write passionatley, but also honestly and insightfully, about the politics of the death penalty in America.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Betty Burks on July 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This memoir (loosely-termed as such) is an account of an adventure in 2000 when these two young actors left Manhattan in a rented car to travel across the United States on a quest. They drove from Chicago to Florida and stopped at places in between, from Oregon to L. A. to interview some of those exonerated of murder charges.

Jessica had been in a movie for Court TV called 'The Exonerated' about prisoners falsely accused and who spent time on death row in prisons. It is the result of her friend, Erik Jensen from Minnessota,who agreed to make the trip and they nose dived into the darker side of our justice (or injustice) system and were told stories of gross conditions which were repulsive and overwhelming to the victims, before they could win their freedom after such a long interval between being accussed and released.

"The desire for revenge is powerful" on all levels. I've been against the death penalty for many years now because of the innocent "criminals" who are due to die for some crime someone else perpetrated. They discovered that 74% of Americans support capital punishment. If it doesn't happen here in East Tennessee, some decide to take matters in their own hands.

This book entails the creation of the play they wrote using actual cases they uncovered. It is 'a fascinating chronicle of political consciousness.' Instead of dwelling on statistics and legalese, they put a human face on stage so every person in the audience could can and understand what was at stake. This is the story of real people who had lost so much; they used the interviews they did with those abused by the inequities of the system to make a social comment in the form of a play. It took them three years to work through and it changed them forever.
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