Despite its barely-over-200 page count, Dear Martin was such a powerful book. Reading about the struggles that Justyce — and so many people of color in the United States — go through made me frustrated, furious, stunned, and hopeful all at once.
Justyce has spent his entire life trying to escape the rough neighborhood he grew up in. An Ivy-bound honors student and a good friend, Justyce has no reason to get arrested — except for the color of his skin. As he begins to realize the uncomfortable truths of subtle and not-so-subtle racism, truths that he has avoided and ignored for years, he starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and resolves to live like him. But when Justyce and his best friend find themselves under attack over a dispute with a white police officer, Justyce finds it harder and harder to keep sight of who he truly is under what other people see of him.
What do I do when my very identity is being mocked by people who refuse to admit there’s a problem?
Abby the Bookworm
Dear Martin is a book that everyone should read. Nic Stone addresses so many relevant topics in her novel. She addresses racism, police brutality, racial profiling, misogyny, and gang violence, among others, and she delivers her difficult message so powerfully. The directness of Justyce’s narration punched me in the gut with his increasingly desperate questions about racism and what others expect of him.
Justyce’s character arc is beautifully done. He struggles to accept the reality of social injustice and racism as he begins to see the seldom talked of but pervasive discrimination, the racial profiling, and above all, the refusal to admit that a problem exists at all. He tries to be like Dr. King: nonviolent, persevering, patient. He considers going the other way: resisting, fighting, returning violence for violence. My heart ached when he despaired, and lifted when he turned to the supportive adults and friends around him for help.
Dear Martin tells the all-too-true story of how people of color define themselves by how others perceive them, and how too many of them lose themselves along the way. It is a grim tale from start to finish, but Justyce’s journey, and where he ultimately ends up, provides a well of hope as well.
There are no easy answers. But the first step forward is to start asking the questions. To start crying out that there is something wrong. Because for every day that passes without that something being fixed, another Justyce — another Manny — falls down and wonders about the point of getting back up.
Abby the Christian Bookworm: LOVE
This was an obvious one. If everyone loved each other as they loved themself, books like Dear Martin would not even have to be written.
What about you? What did you think about Dear Martin? Is it on your TBR?