Kendi teaches young people the history of race rela­tions in America | Amazon

“March: Book Three” charts the con­cluding events of John Lewis’s memoir of his par­tic­i­pation in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. John Lewis, Georgia state Rep­re­sen­tative and former civil rights activist, joins author Andrew Aydin and illus­trator Nate Powell to enu­merate the woes of the black man in pre-voting rights America in the style of a classic comic book. The first two books of “March” chart Lewis’ upbringing and intro­duction into the civil rights cause. This installment com­pletes Lewis’ graphic memoir, ending with the signing of the  the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Pres­ident Lyndon B. Johnson. A memoir that reads like a political pam­phlet, this book lacks lit­erary appeal.

The book begins with the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birm­ingham, Alabama on Sept. 15, 1963, and follows the struggles of civil rights activists to depose Gov­ernor Wallace and win the Alabama vote for the blacks. Author and pro­tag­onist, Lewis inter­prets the events depicted in bold black and white car­toons on every page. As the images depict the vio­lence of the movement, the book takes the form of a list of griev­ances made against civil rights activists. Though the people and events are his­torical, they become dehu­manized by the cause. The nar­ration reads like my eighth grade history reader, shoving its agenda so far down my throat I thought I might choke on it.

Now the car­toons would be cool if it were a book on any other subject up for any other award. However, it seems ill-fitting that a comic book would win a national award for lit­er­ature. I don’t mean to cheapen the history by dis­missing the book, but doesn’t it cheapen it to turn it into a comic strip? It seems that this book got selected more for its agenda than its lit­erary merit.

The National Book Award label promised an adventure story ripe with exciting plot and engaging nar­ration and char­acters that my 14-year-old self would have enjoyed. Instead, the novel delivered a politician’s memoir in cartoon form. Kids spend all day long in school getting gov­ernment-approved history. People aren’t ill-informed of the white man’s abuse of the black man. These days, kids know that slavery was evil; they know that seg­re­gation was a bad thing. Why are we harping on this, demon­ising the mis­taken ideas of the past instead of cre­ating some­thing new for the next gen­er­ation? We ought to be awarding books that are original and fresh, ones that appeal to more than political agendas. Lewis told the National Book Award com­mittee that he told this story for every kids who needs a hero. However his heroes fail to compel the audience, over­whelming them with dogma.

In short, the book lacks the lit­erary depth and sub­tlety that ought to be expected from a National Award winner. It only took five pages for me to pinhole the agenda of the entire book, and there were still another 250 pages to go.