by Sara Wecht, Librarian
Dear Martin was the 2019 selection for One Book Baltimore. Nic Stone recently came out with the sequel called Dear Justyce.
Dear Martin‘s main character is Justyce, a teenage boy who struggles to comprehend and cope with racism.
Trying to help his ex-girlfriend, he gets thrown to the ground and handcuffed. Despite her and her parents’ testimonies, he remains handcuffed for hours. Even though he is released, he is traumatized by the event. He attempts to bring himself some peace by writing letters to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Kids at school discuss racism and this leads to debates similar to those happening currently in our own society. “That ONE black person did it, why can’t you?” “I’m colorblind. Skin color doesn’t matter.”
One day, he aimlessly rides around with his best friend, Manny, when they get yelled at by someone in another car because of their music. They don’t listen and then they both suddenly get shot. The gentleman was an unidentifiable cop who did not announce himself as such and had no reason for his distress and actions. Justyce is injured but okay. Manny dies.
The politics and media are a nightmare for Justyce. His trauma envelopes him, even as he sporadically writes letters to Martin, asking what he would do.
This book is about love, family, friendship, loss, trauma, and racism. Justyce dates a white girl who debates with racist classmates. His mom doesn’t approve. His best friend has other, white, friends who only see him as rich, not black. There’s a scene where the group of boys, Justyce, Manny, and Manny’s three white friends, dress up as stereotypes for Halloween. One of them dressed as a KKK member. This caused them a world of problems. A fight breaks out.
Throughout the book are small instances where race is a factor where people might not expect in real life. My takeaway is about the connection between racism and trauma. The two circle each other to the point that it cripples that person’s life. We see that somewhat with Justyce, but there’s hope for him at the end- he’s happy with his girlfriend and he’s about to attend an Ivy League college. This is a subtle reflection of racism too- that he needs to “become white” in order to be happy- to get a girlfriend and go to a prestigious school.
However, at the very end he becomes friends with the guy who was previously racist (but didn’t realize it) which implies that it is possible for people to change and for different races to get along after turmoil.
This is a powerful book that’s about a topic that pervades our society today. This book may be fictional, but these experiences and emotions happen daily. Although this book may be difficult to read during certain parts, it’s one everyone should pick up.
Below are more books by Nic Stone that you may also be interested in including the sequel Dear Justyce.