I was more than pleased to see the 2018 selection of March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell as the community’s One Book at San Juan College in Farmington, New Mexico. It felt like a welcome choice for so many reasons.
It was a comic book that influenced the young John Lewis, at a time when comic books were largely viewed as evil influences upon the young. Aydin writes about this in his article on the historical context of March:
Congress, never one to miss a bandwagon, held its hearings on the connection between comic books and juvenile delinquency.
Then, as now, Congress seemed to have kind of missed the point of what will count as progress in the relentless sweep of history.
In our time, the unthinkable has happened. This from the New Yorker:
Literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses, once the most common mechanisms for disadvantaging minority voters, have been consigned to the history books, but one need look no further than the governor’s race in Georgia to see their modern equivalents in action.
Which is why I’m happy to see that in San Juan County, far from the halls of power, people will be reading Lewis’s powerful book. Everyone reading it should think about what it means now.
I’ve been writing historical fiction and working on my historical nonfiction project at the same time as the unfolding of the most bizarre political events of our time. It’s all given me new windows into what the past means to me, personally, and why it matters. Growing up in India, I always had the sense that the American civil rights movement was a natural, inevitable validation of peace and justice. Of Gandhi. Of everything I grew to hold dear. Freedom. The end of colonialism. Human rights. Equality. You know. Those kinds of things. The things all human beings ought to be be able to take for granted.
Now, in the 21st century, I’m finding a new reason for why history matters. It matters because you can’t ever feel you’ve won the battle against human meanness, insularity, cruelty, and injustice. Look at this page from John Lewis’s heartbreakingly beautiful graphic memoir, March: Volume 3. It is indeed. Last week I spoke to kids on the BC mainland about voting and rights and taking a stand–for trees, for people. It matters more than ever.
March Book Three is every bit as compelling as the first two in the trilogy. And the timing of this award couldn’t be more apt. If there is hope to be had in the world it is here in Lewis’s words and in his memories, captured in this three-volume graphic memoir by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. Complex and beautiful, and necessary for today.