By Nic Stone
Published by Simon and Schuster, 2018
A book that was written for the young adult fiction market, ‘Dear Martin’ by Nic Stone is a beautifully crafted and moving story. The message the book offers is also equally (if not more) important for older adults than the young.
‘Dear Martin’, follows a 17-year-old man called Justyce; an African American, attempting to establish his identity in a world in which racial injustices remain rife.
This is a coming of age story with a powerful impact.
From the beginning of the book, the reader learns that Justyce is a good person. He cares about his friends, he sees good in the world around him and wants to do right in return. Justyce is an intelligent young man, accepted to Yale with a bright future despite a less privileged upbringing.
After an incident one night finds him in handcuffs, Justyce starts to question his belief in the good of others and in his rightful place in society. Was this wrongful arrest by the police officers racially motivated?
The book is written from Justyce’s viewpoint, incorporating real, modern-day dialogue, action and the clever use of handwritten letters.
Justyce has been studying the works and beliefs of Martin Luther King and so he has been inspired to ‘be more like Martin’. As the plot unfolds, Justyce writes regular letters to Martin, through which his inner thoughts, feelings and true character shine through.
“I’ve been trying to figure out what you would’ve done if you’d been in my shoes today. I know you lived in a world where black folks were hosed and beaten and jailed and killed while fighting for equal rights, but you still managed to be, like dignified and everything.
How did you do that, Martin? How do I do that?…”
As the book progresses, Justyce and his friends increasingly struggle to understand why racial differences persist in today’s society. Tensions based on skin colour remain strong and Justyce and his peers learn that these prejudices, even in our ‘tolerant’ 21st century continue to impact on their lives.
As tragedy hits, Justyce questions what the point is in trying to do right when the world seems to be against you.
What path should Justyce choose when race is still a factor?
Nic Stone does an exceptional job at crafting this novel. The reader is lured into Justyce’s life and will be shocked at the ‘injustice’ the lead character faces in our modern world. A brave subject matter to cover; set in the USA, but which could be true of any westernised country today.
By the end of this book, you will be re-considering how equal and non-discriminatory we truly are as a society.
In observing Justyce ultimately attempt to rise above prejudices, learn who he truly is and what he believes, an uncomfortable truth surfaces.
How much have we really learnt from Martin Luther King’s teaching?
Is it the adults in today’s world who still need to learn more values of tolerance and inclusivity?
Putting the issues raised by this story to one side, ultimately the going home message from this review of ‘Dear Martin’ would be to read it!!
This book is well written, moving and will keep you immersed… whether you are a young adult or older!