Small Great Things

Small Great Things

Kennedy McQuarrie Character Analysis

The white public defender who represents Ruth. Kennedy lives a privileged life; her husband Micah is an eye surgeon and makes enough money for Kennedy to work her low-paying job as a public defender. She adores her four-year-old daughter, Violet, but has a strained relationship with her mother, Ava. Kennedy believes that she's not racist, as most of her clients are black. However, she's forced to confront the truth when she first represents Ruth at Ruth's arraignment trial. The women's relationship starts out rocky, especially when Kennedy insists that they can't bring up race during Ruth's trial. Though she admits that there's absolutely a racial element to the charges, she knows that bringing up race is a surefire way to lose. She gradually earns Ruth's trust and Ruth begins to expose Kennedy to small ways that racism affects her life, such as showing her how store employees treat her and pointing out that Band-Aids are never the right color. Kennedy starts to understand that she doesn't have enough knowledge to win Ruth's case alone, so she enlists the help of Howard, a young black lawyer. Together, they assemble a jury for Ruth's case that they hope will rule in her favor, and working with Howard exposes Kennedy to more instances of everyday racism that black people experience. Though things look good for Kennedy and Ruth in the final days of the trial, Kennedy is blindsided by Ruth's admission that she lied and actually did touch Davis. Ruth forces Kennedy to let her testify and afterwards, when Kennedy insists that Ruth's testimony will make them lose the case, Ruth fires Kennedy as her lawyer. Kennedy decides to walk around a black neighborhood to try to see how Ruth feels, and she comes to the realization that if she doesn't bring up race in the courtroom, the system will never change. Because of this, Kennedy's closing argument is entirely about institutional racism. The novel implies that Ruth and Kennedy go on to be friends after Ruth is acquitted.

Kennedy McQuarrie Quotes in Small Great Things

The Small Great Things quotes below are all either spoken by Kennedy McQuarrie or refer to Kennedy McQuarrie. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Small Great Things published in 2016.
Chapter 8, Kennedy Quotes

In that moment, we're not black and white, or attorney and accused. We're not separated by what I know about the legal system and what she has yet to learn. We are just two mothers, sitting side by side.

Related Characters: Kennedy McQuarrie (speaker), Ruth Jefferson, Edison, Violet
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:
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I think about Ruth walking down the street in East End and wonder how many other residents questioned what she was doing there, even if they never said it to her face. How incredibly easy it is to hide behind white skin, I think, looking at these probable supremacists. The benefit of the doubt is in your favor. You're not suspicious.

Related Characters: Kennedy McQuarrie (speaker), Ruth Jefferson, Turk Bauer, Brit Bauer
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 11, Kennedy Quotes

In fact, the easiest way to lose a case that has a racially motivated incident at its core is to actually call it what it is. Instead, you find something else for the jury to hang their hat on. Some shred of evidence that can clear your client of blame, and allow those twelve men and women to go home still pretending that the world we live in is an equal one.

Related Characters: Kennedy McQuarrie (speaker), Ruth Jefferson
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 12, Ruth Quotes

Suddenly I realize that Kennedy's refusal to mention race in court may not be ignorant. It's the very opposite. It's because she is aware of exactly what I have to do in order to get what I deserve.

I might as well be blind and lost, and Kennedy McQuarrie is the only one with a map.

Related Characters: Ruth Jefferson (speaker), Kennedy McQuarrie
Page Number: 204
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 14, Ruth Quotes

"You say you don't see color...but that's all you see. You're so hyperaware of it, and of trying to look like you aren't prejudiced, you can't even understand that when you say race doesn't matter all I hear is you dismissing what I've felt, what I've lived, what it's like to be put down because of the color of my skin."

Related Characters: Ruth Jefferson (speaker), Kennedy McQuarrie
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 17, Ruth Quotes

She looks at me, and we both laugh, and in that instant we are merely two women, standing over a lasagne, telling the truth. In that instant, with our flaws and confessions trailing like a slip from a dress, we have more in common than we have differences.

Related Characters: Ruth Jefferson (speaker), Kennedy McQuarrie
Page Number: 283
Explanation and Analysis:
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It is a picture of a Black woman wearing a maid's uniform, holding a little girl in her arms. The girl has hair as light as snow, and her hand is pressed against her caregiver's cheek in shocking contrast. There's more than just duty between them. There's pride. There's love. "I didn't know your mother. But, Ruth—she didn't waste her life."

Related Characters: Ruth Jefferson (speaker), Ava (speaker), Kennedy McQuarrie, Mama, Beattie
Related Symbols: The Photograph
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 18, Kennedy Quotes

I've always thought of her as an uptight piece of work. But now I'm wondering: when she goes shopping, is she, like Ruth, asked to show her receipts before exiting the store? Does she mutely hand them over? Or does she ever snap and say she is the one who puts shoplifters on trial?

Related Characters: Kennedy McQuarrie (speaker), Ruth Jefferson, Odette Lawton
Page Number: 303
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 24, Kennedy Quotes

"You think you're a respected member of a community—the hospital where you work, the town where you live. I had a wonderful job. I had colleagues who were friends. I lived in a home I was proud of. But it was just an optical illusion. I was never a member of any of those communities. I was tolerated, but not welcomed. I was, and will always be, different from them."

Related Characters: Ruth Jefferson (speaker), Turk Bauer, Kennedy McQuarrie, Howard, Davis Bauer
Page Number: 404
Explanation and Analysis:
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Maybe if there were lawyers more courageous than I am, we wouldn't be so scared to talk about race in places where it matters the most.

Related Characters: Kennedy McQuarrie (speaker), Ruth Jefferson
Page Number: 415
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 27, Ruth Quotes

What Kennedy said to all those strangers, it's been the narrative of my life, the outline inside of which I have lived. But I could have screamed it from the rooftops, and it wouldn't have done any good. For the jurors to hear it, really hear it, it had to be said by one of their own.

Related Characters: Ruth Jefferson (speaker), Kennedy McQuarrie
Page Number: 432
Explanation and Analysis:
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Kennedy McQuarrie Character Timeline in Small Great Things

The timeline below shows where the character Kennedy McQuarrie appears in Small Great Things. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5, Kennedy
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
It's been a trying morning for Kennedy. Everyone overslept, her daughter Violet refused to eat cereal, and then after Kennedy's husband Micah... (full context)
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Things only get worse; Kennedy's boss sends her to the New Haven correctional facility to negotiate about bras—the facility has... (full context)
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Kennedy reminds the Warden that their bra policy could easily be construed as discrimination, which makes... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Kennedy explains that her mother, Ava, bought her a gift card for a massage last year.... (full context)
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
On days when both Kennedy and Micah work late, Ava stays with Violet. Being an old southern belle, Ava throws... (full context)
Chapter 8, Kennedy
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
When Kennedy gets to work, her colleague Ed Gourakis is going on at length about the new... (full context)
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Kennedy briefly explains her job on arraignment day, which is when defendants are expected to enter... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
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Kennedy's next client is Ruth. The police lead her in still wearing her nightgown, and Kennedy... (full context)
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Kennedy starts asking Ruth her usual questions, but Ruth spits that they put her in chains... (full context)
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During her break, Kennedy rushes to Ruth's holding cell, where Ruth explains she's a nurse. When Kennedy tells Ruth... (full context)
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Back in the courtroom, Kennedy notices white onlookers that she suspects are white supremacists, and thinks that being white means... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
The white supremacists start booing and as they're herded out, Kennedy tells a panicked Ruth that it'll take a few days before she's released. She runs... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
When Kennedy gets home, Ava is on the couch with a glass of wine watching Disney Junior,... (full context)
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
...she isn't prejudiced; she says she loved her childhood nanny, Beattie, like she was family. Kennedy sighs, but Ava softly recounts how, as a child, she snuck away to drink from... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Kennedy falls asleep on the couch with Violet and wakes up in time to see Mufasa's... (full context)
Chapter 10, Ruth
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
...thinks back to how she lied that she didn't touch Davis, but she didn't trust Kennedy and so didn't tell the truth. As soon as the judge agrees to Ruth's bail,... (full context)
Chapter 11, Kennedy
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
When Kennedy dreams about Ruth for two nights straight, she knows she's in trouble. In the first... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
In the morning, Kennedy tells Micah that she's going to see if her boss will give her a felony... (full context)
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That morning at the office, Ed and Kennedy watch Good Morning America and discuss Ed's insufferable in-laws. Their boss, Harry, bursts in and... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
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The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Kennedy sends a formal letter to Ruth's house and a few days later, Ruth arrives at... (full context)
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The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
When Ruth insists that the issue is that Turk didn't want her near Davis, Kennedy pushes back. She says that the state doesn't care what color Ruth is; she still... (full context)
Chapter 12, Ruth
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Later, Ruth dresses carefully and heads to Kennedy's office. Kennedy greets Ruth warmly and starts talking quickly, and Ruth thinks of how, on... (full context)
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The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Ruth feels like she's taking a test as she answers Kennedy's questions. She thinks of Edison and says she can't go back to jail, but bristles... (full context)
Chapter 13, Kennedy
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
When Kennedy gets home after meeting with Ruth, Ava and Violet have made pizza. Kennedy picks Violet... (full context)
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Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Kennedy asks Ava to at least watch MSNBC if she wants to watch Wallace Mercy, but... (full context)
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Kennedy heads upstairs to read to Violet. She makes a mental note to thank Ava for... (full context)
Chapter 14, Ruth
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...One morning, a man comes in and asks for a song. Next in line is Kennedy holding Violet. Kennedy blushes and seems shocked that Ruth is working at McDonald's. When she... (full context)
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
...that he should punch more white people. He storms into the house, nearly knocking over Kennedy in the process. Ruth delicately shows Kennedy in. Kennedy unpacks a box of files and... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Kennedy asks if the heart murmur was life-threatening, and Ruth explains that it usually isn't. Kennedy... (full context)
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Primly, Kennedy says again that they can't talk about racism and this "perceived slight." Ruth dumps out... (full context)
Chapter 16, Kennedy
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
As Micah and Kennedy wash dishes, Kennedy laments that Ruth hates her. Micah points out that Ruth is black,... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Twenty minutes later, Kennedy is on Ruth's doorstep. Ruth lets her in, and Kennedy says that involving Wallace Mercy... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The next day, Kennedy interviews Jack DeNardi, a paper pusher at Ruth's hospital. She discovers that Ruth has only... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
It rains that weekend. While Kennedy and Violet are coloring, Kennedy gets a call from Ruth to invite her to go... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
Kennedy grabs a box of caramel corn, opens it, and starts eating. An employee interrupts them... (full context)
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Institutional Racism Theme Icon
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Over the next month, Kennedy works hard on Ruth's case. When she has a spare few hours one afternoon, she... (full context)
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
After New Year's, Kennedy checks to see what judge is assigned to Ruth's case. Her heart sinks; it's Judge... (full context)
Chapter 17, Ruth
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
After work, Ruth discovers six missed calls from Kennedy—Adisa apparently involved Wallace Mercy and set up a march in Ruth's honor. Ruth takes the... (full context)
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Near the end of January, Kennedy invites Ruth and Edison to dinner. Micah answers the door with Violet in his arms,... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
...in the Bible. Ruth notices that during her lesson, Edison removes his chain. She follows Kennedy into the kitchen, where Kennedy again apologizes for Violet and the flawed way they've been... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...in her scarf, but she couldn't find it. When the service begins, Ruth notices that Kennedy and an older woman are there among the sea of black faces. Mama's friends speak... (full context)
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The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
...ceremony. Ruth takes refuge in the kitchen and looks through Mama's partially finished handwritten cookbook. Kennedy interrupts Ruth, introduces Ava, and asks about the cookbook. Bitterly, Ruth says that Mama wasted... (full context)
Chapter 18, Kennedy
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
On Kennedy and Micah's wedding anniversary, Kennedy gets the stomach flu. Micah finds her asleep in the... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Kennedy tells the reader that being tried "by a jury of your peers" isn't entirely true,... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
...in a few hours, and says jury selection starts in two days. As Howard and Kennedy drive back to the office, she explains that they need to become detectives to figure... (full context)
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Late that night, Kennedy and Howard have spread out over her home office. Howard spent the afternoon doing internet... (full context)
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
The next morning, Kennedy meets Odette to talk about the jurors they both want to decline. Kennedy doesn't know... (full context)
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Ruth and Kennedy meet behind the courthouse for jury selection. Ruth looks professional but very nervous. Kennedy introduces... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
...juror, a man who runs a hardware store and has a brother who's a cop. Kennedy asks about his opinions on medical treatment and learns that his mother died during an... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
After the individual questioning, Odette and Kennedy choose whom to excuse from the first group of fourteen jurors. Odette doesn't want to... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
When Judge Thunder dismisses them, Kennedy invites Ruth to get a glass of wine. She tries to raise a toast, but... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
Ruth confirms that she'll still get to testify, and Kennedy says that just because the courts pretend cases don't have to do with racism, it... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Kennedy spends all weekend preparing for opening arguments and meets the neonatologist, Ivan Kelly-Garcia, on Sunday.... (full context)
Chapter 19, Ruth
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...knocks on Edison's door. She finds him in bed, awake, and he refuses to go. Kennedy had asked that he skip school to come, and Ruth didn't tell her that Edison... (full context)
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
Ruth explains that last night, Kennedy stopped by with news that Davis had MCADD. Ruth stared at the results and thought... (full context)
Chapter 21, Kennedy
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
As Kennedy heads out the door for Ruth's trial, Micah tells her to sit and eat breakfast... (full context)
Chapter 22, Ruth
The Justice System and the Politics of Speech Theme Icon
Kennedy rises to make her statement. She says that Turk blamed Ruth for Davis's death, but... (full context)
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Kennedy takes over questioning. She brings up Marie's note in Davis's file that barred Ruth from... (full context)
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Kennedy questions Marie about the kind of care Ruth gave to patients, and asked if she'd... (full context)
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At the break, Kennedy offers to buy Ruth and Edison lunch. When Ruth refuses, Kennedy assures her that this... (full context)
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During recess, Kennedy and Ruth sit in a small room together. Ruth notes that if she's cleared, she's... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
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...mentions the heart murmur, describes Davis's circumcision, and mentions Ruth's comment to sterilize Davis. When Kennedy takes over, she asks Dr. Atkins about how Ruth behaved during Davis's emergency and then... (full context)
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Kennedy is excited at the end of the day, but Ruth can't stop thinking about Dr.... (full context)
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The next morning, a snowstorm means that Ruth and Edison are five minutes late. Kennedy is upset, but Judge Thunder is late too since he got rear-ended. He crankily starts... (full context)
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Kennedy asks MacDougall why he showed up at Ruth's house at 3 am. He says it's... (full context)
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...bailiff shows Brit out and when the furor dies down, one juror bursts into tears. Kennedy curses. (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
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...have enough information to say definitively whether the death was natural or a murder. When Kennedy takes over, she confirms that the bruising could've been the result of CPR. She then... (full context)
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...diagnose the disorder, and it's possible Davis might not have had it. She suggests that Kennedy is just trying to make it look like Ruth didn't neglect and then intentionally harm... (full context)
Chapter 23, Turk
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Family and Shared Humanity Theme Icon
...good life. During the recess, Odette coaches Turk and tells him to stay calm during Kennedy's questioning. As soon as Odette leaves, Brit spits that she hates her. Turk wonders out... (full context)
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As Kennedy begins her questioning, Turk thinks that he hates people like Kennedy. She asks him if... (full context)
Chapter 24, Kennedy
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Kennedy is thrilled as she meets with Odette and Judge Thunder. Odette tries to hang onto... (full context)
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Ruth points out that she hasn't testified, but Kennedy says that she doesn't need to. Kennedy knows that Ruth wants to bring up race... (full context)
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Kennedy remembers one night when she and Ruth had been working in her kitchen, and Violet... (full context)
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On Friday morning, Kennedy meets Ruth and Edison behind the courthouse. Ruth is still insistent on testifying. Kennedy notices... (full context)
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During recess, Kennedy drags Ruth to a conference room and asks if she's happy now. Ruth says she's... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Back in the courtroom, Kennedy explains to the reader that it's time for her to raise the motion to acquit... (full context)
Institutional Racism Theme Icon
Kennedy leaves Ava with Violet and takes the bus downtown. She stops at a CVS and... (full context)
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Kennedy heads for Micah's hospital and thinks about the history of racism in the U.S. She... (full context)
Chapter 25, Ruth
Belonging and Community Theme Icon
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...to be a monster. She also thinks that she doesn't regret what she said to Kennedy. Adisa bursts in and brushes off Ruth's worries about Edison. Suddenly, Ruth realizes that she's... (full context)
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...him to the floor to arrest him for a felony hate crime. Ruth immediately calls Kennedy. (full context)
Chapter 26, Kennedy
Racism: Hate, Fear, and Grief Theme Icon
Kennedy receives a call from Ruth around 2 am. She heads straight to the police station... (full context)
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Kennedy finds Edison in his holding cell, crying. He explains that he wanted to help Ruth... (full context)
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It's almost 4 am by the time Kennedy gets home, so she cleans up in her office. She knocks over a stack of... (full context)
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On Monday morning, Judge Thunder agrees to delay closing arguments so that Kennedy can deal with Edison's formal arraignment first. Edison is released with no issues and everyone... (full context)
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When Kennedy begins her closing argument, she feels surrounded by the stories of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown,... (full context)
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Kennedy says it's easy to see overt racism, but it's not easy to see the small... (full context)
Chapter 27, Ruth
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When Kennedy sits down, Ruth is flabbergasted. She realizes that Kennedy is the only person who could've... (full context)
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Once Judge Thunder and the jury leave, Howard jumps up in awe of Kennedy's statement. Kennedy soberly says she shot herself in the foot and tells Ruth that it'll... (full context)
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Kennedy, Howard, and Ruth leave the courtroom and try to push through the press outside. Ruth... (full context)
Chapter 29, Kennedy
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...end of the day, the jury is still split. The next morning, Judge Thunder calls Kennedy and Odette to his office to explain that the jury is hung, eleven to one.... (full context)
Chapter 30, Ruth
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...like nothing has changed. She texts Edison, calls Adisa, and gets a text from Christina. Kennedy and Howard assure Ruth that it's over, and Kennedy invites Ruth out for lunch. Ruth... (full context)