March: Book One by John Lewis, Adrew Aydin and Nate Powell
Best for: Anyone who doesn’t know about John Lewis. Also, anyone who does. Also, the PEOTUS, because damn.
In a nutshell: This is the first of three graphic novels about the life of John Lewis. It covers his childhood through early college, including his participation in lunch counter sit-ins.
Line that sticks with me: “The police, conspicuously absent while we were beaten, arrived quickly after the mob wore themselves out.”
Why I chose it: My husband purchased the three books last year and just finished the last two this weekend. I haven’t enjoyed graphic novels I’d read previously, but given the shameful comments the soon-to-be President shared this weekend, I thought I’d give it a go.
Review: I have a feeling that this is going to happen a lot with the books I choose this year, but wow, my mostly white, all-suburban California public education failed me in many ways when it comes to U.S. history and current affairs. Also, my parents didn’t express any interest in making sure I was aware of the civil rights movement. I wish I’d recognized then how critical it would be to learn about that part of history, but I’m catching up as much as I can now.
I appreciate the storytelling device, which follows Congressman Lewis through the day when President Obama is inaugurated, and provides opportunities for him to tell his story to a constituent who happens to stop by. We learn about his childhood on a farm, his segregated schooling, his attempt to attend a white college that ignored his application, and finally his work organizing and participating in nonviolent protests of racist policies.
I know there is a naïveté in what I’m about to say, but even though I know it is real, I still have a challenging time accepting that there are people who will shout the n-word and beat up black people, and police who stand by (or actively participate). I just cannot understand. I know it happened – and still happens today – it’s just that it’s so. Fucking. Ridiculous.
The focus on nonviolent protest also intrigues me, because while I can see how effective it can be, I also do wonder about the effectiveness of violence as self-defense. One of my best friends is Quaker, and we’ve had many discussions about the Quaker commitment to pacifism, and the challenges of how we’d like the world to be (one where people do respond to nonviolent protest) versus the world we live in (where that isn’t always the case).
I’m looking forward to reading the next volume, both to learn more about Congressman Lewis and to see what I can learn from his actions that can help as I fight against the injustices going on right now.