Tuesday, February 28, 2017
March, Books 1-3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
I read two of the March graphic memoir series in January, took a break, and finished up the third in February, which feels like pretty nice timing because of Black History Month. I wasn't thinking about Black History Month when I bought them, though; the purchase was really a reaction to our current president's bizarre tweets about Lewis, a man of action who did not deserve the lack of respect shown to him. I knew about the March series, but had put off buying them until then.
I'm not going to go into the details of what each of the books covers individually because the truth is, I don't entirely remember and I don't think that the details are all that important. What's most important to know is that the three books, basically a biography and history set in graphic form, describe John Lewis's early years, why he was inspired to get involved in the dangerous fight for civil rights, the progress of the Civil Rights Movement over many years, how participants were trained in peaceful protest, and the final results.
When I read March, Book One, I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting but it begins with John Lewis as a child, the hardships he endured, his sheer determination to acquire an education, and his fiercely independent temperament. Even as a boy, he was courageous. A parallel story is shown, the story of John Lewis attending Barack Obama's inauguration. The final book ends with the signing of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965 and a final scene in which, after President Obama's inauguration, Lewis says he's been thinking about that comic book idea . . . the book you hold in your hands, of course. Wonderful ending.
Highly recommended - I was surprised at how many times I got a little teary and had to set aside the books to take a break. The amount of violence peaceful protestors had to endure for years honestly shocked me -- and I lived through that time! Granted, I was quite young and there was no such thing as Black History Month when I was in school, but I've seen plenty of film clips, over the years. I don't think I'd ever mentally stitched them together and that's what this series is good for. Especially when read back-to-back, you get a genuine sense for the endurance and determination that was required as activists made baby steps toward their right to vote. The only problems I had at all with the books were that sometimes I couldn't follow what was going on in a particular frame or set of frames (a problem I always have with graphic novels) and some of the details about the various organizations that worked together or in opposition to each other (but for the same goal) got mixed up in my head. There were quite a few of them and the meetings they held could be kind of dull, yet they served a purpose as things were not static; they had to constantly adjust to the reactions of those around them. In general, I was impressed and I'm hoping to insert a bit more black history into my reading life because I clearly am lacking in that area.
Important addendum: A lot of people were talking about the March books when I bought the set (I got the slipcased set of all three) and a couple people I know mentioned having read the first book but not the rest, so I was a little surprised to find that the ending of the first March book is a bit of a cliffhanger. They are definitely not meant to stand alone. The series together tells a complete story and I recommend reading them close together, if you can.
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