Writing about Troy Davis for The Atlantic online.

If you’re new to these parts, I’d love it if you took a moment to look around — you’ll find discussions of Steve Burns (yes, the guy from Blues Clues), and Israel/Palestine, and a really cool map, and Star Trek geekery, and misogyny, and all kinds of stuff.

I am beyond pleased and deeply humbled to say that The Atlantic online accepted an essay that I wrote this morning about the Troy Davis case. As a language nerd and something of a bluestocking by nature, the idea that my name is anywhere associated with The Atlantic blows my mind. The fact that the piece in question may help Troy Davis in some small way kind of brings me to my knees.

Here’s the top of the piece, but please click through to read the rest — I want to give The Atlantic a lot of love today, and would be so happy for you to read the whole thing. And if you haven’t yet had a chance to act to help Mr. Davis in his clemency bid, please do so (click here for links, etc) — there are only six days left until his clemency hearing, only eight until his execution date.

Explaining the Death Penalty to My Children

“How does it work?” my eight-year-old asked last Saturday morning . “Will he just stand there and have to — let them kill him?”

She was asking me about Troy Davis, a man on Georgia’s death row who is slated to be executed on September 21.

There’s been much talk about Davis in our house, so the night before, I’d tried to explain: Found guilty of killing a police officer, Davis was sentenced to death in 1991, but in the meantime, the case against him has fallen apart.

Seven out of the nine people who said it was him have “recanted” or changed their testimony,  I told my daughter and her older brother, explaining what that meant. “What about the other two?” my son asked.



  1. Oh man.

    I don’t know what the right reaction is here – happy to see this posted, sad that it has to be posted.

    • You’ve touched on why my overwhelming reaction to this is mild nausea. Being published, in anyway, by The Atlantic is something of a dream come true, but I wish so powerfully that I’d never even had the chance, because the whole case just didn’t exist.

  2. dmf

     /  September 13, 2011

    congrats ee, so refreshing to see good works get the space and recognition they deserve.
    so much of what occupies our our public space/conversation just covers up, fills up, what should be front-page news.
    not easy to face monstrosity but better than turning one’s back on it.

    • Thank you, honey! (Horde friends are good friends, even if they no longer hang with the Horde…).

      • dmf

         /  September 13, 2011

        I imagine that TNC was in the loop on this but I dropped him a line/link just in case.
        you fulfill all the promise of the Horde, may they take note and be inspired to follow suit,

  3. It is lovely, Em. Also lovely, is your daughter 🙂

  4. WaterGirl

     /  September 13, 2011

    Really nice job on the story, Emily. Very proud of you. The story is even written in such a way for nearly anyone who reads it to be touched, I think. I saw the story via a tweet from John Cole, so hopefully the story will get the attention it deserves.

  5. Can I echo other people’s congratulations. I have advertised the case on my blog and garnered some couple of hundreds of hits. Is there any sign Georgia may relent? There is an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach that these things don’t go well, but we have to keep trying. I will post the link to the Atlantic article on my site, too. Kind regards, Yolly

    • Thank you very much for your kind words, and for spreading the news. I just cannot believe that all these efforts will be for naught. I just can’t.

      Thank you.

  6. This was a marvelous piece of writing and a wonderful piece of parenting. I have just finished writing my clemency letter, am printing it out, and will be posting it on my blog. I can only hope that somehow this outpouring can alter the course of Troy Davis’ life and give him the justice he deserves after all these years.

  7. taylor16

     /  September 13, 2011

    Emily, this post is wonderful. It made me cry. I posted it to Facebook, and three of my friends reposted it. Fingers crossed.

    And in the meantime, you should be proud of your wonderful, caring children.

  8. Emily, it makes me happy to see your writing in the Atlantic. It makes me sad to see this story in the Atlantic; sad that it needs to be there.

    But I hope this piece of sorry is followed by joy; that it helps in securing justice.

    And I hope The Atlantic has you back again. Often.

  1. Balloon Juice » Troy Davis to be executed.