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.

  • Val­sadie

    1) If this is a review of “March: Book Three”, why does the illus­tration for this article show Ibram Kendi’s National Book Award-winning “Stamped from the Beginning” instead?

    2) Was this article proofread or edited? There’s a couple of minor errors in the text, including one word that’s spelled cor­rectly for UK usage, not American.

    3) The last sen­tence of the article may explain why this review, of the indi­vidual title and the “March” trilogy series overall, is so ill-informed. I think you did only read five pages of the book. This would explain your describing this work as a pam­phlet, if you read only the pages that could be made into one. The story of someone’s life within these U.S. borders at a certain point in time is not an agenda, it is history. An agenda would consist of using aspects of a work to dismiss its impor­tance and sig­nif­i­cance. If you had done just the tiniest bit of back­ground work on how “March” came to be written, you’d have found out that it is hardly the first civil rights comic book (I fer­vently hope that it is not the last). I also strongly question your view that it’s common knowledge that slavery and seg­re­gation were evil and a bad thing when there are grown white men telling black children and teens to “Get back to the cotton fields!” and “Go back to Africa!” here in the America of 2016, thanks to the outcome of the pres­i­dential election. That was the outcome of the first election in decades without the full pro­tec­tions of the Voting Rights Act. And now there looks to be put in place as U.S. Attorney General a man who wants nothing more than to erad­icate the rest of the Voting Rights Act. Why are we “harping on this, demon­ising the mis­taken ideas of the past” – ? Because those mis­takes are right here in the present and fore­seeable future! A book that shows how to stand up so that everyone is in full pos­session of their rights as American cit­izens, including the right to vote, is exactly what’s needed as “some­thing new for the next gen­er­ation”!

  • LibraryAnn

    Dear Ms. Andrews, your writing says more about you than the book. Readers want to read well-researched, factual reviews on books, not long-winded sen­tences recounting your neg­ative mem­ories of studying history in eighth grade. You’ve improperly asso­ciated these mem­ories with MARCH. Book Three. This is unfor­tunate. I’ll give you some advice – readers don’t care about what your 14-year-old self would enjoy doing. My kids loved the trilogy and would not identify with your review. Next time, think about your audience (who are all kinds of readers) before you start reviewing. Con­trary to what you’ve said, The MARCH trilogy DOES demon­strate lit­erary depth. There were plenty of examples of metaphors, fore­shad­owing and lit­erary devices throughout the book. MARCH Book Three was an authentic memoir in the graphic novel format and the best of the best. I’ll never see MLK in the same light again. The graphic novel format enhances the story expo­nen­tially like x to the 2nd power. You clearly don’t know what treasure you behold. I hope some day you’ll look back and appre­ciate the MARCH trilogy for its time­lessness.