Restitution and Restorative Justice: Background information when reading The House Girl

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The House Girl

by Tara Conklin

The House Girl
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2013, 336 pages
    Nov 2013, 384 pages

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Beyond the Book:
Restitution and Restorative Justice

Tara Conklin's novel The House Girl weaves two stories together: 17-year-old Josephine, a slave who flees a tobacco farm in West Virginia in 1852, and Lina, a lawyer seeking reparations for the descendants of African American slaves in 2004. While the idea of reparations is not new, it has gained more of a spotlight within the last decade.

To understand its concept, it is useful to understand the philosophy of Restorative Justice, which seeks to restore harm done to both the victim of a particular crime and the community from which the victim comes. Unlike Retributive Justice, which focuses specifically on punishment for the breaking of laws, it addresses the wider social network: the people who are affected by those broken laws, and the communities in which they live. According to the tenets of Restorative Justice, only by addressing the real and specific harm that has been done to actual individual people and their communities can healing begin to occur. Restitution, or ...

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