March: Book 3, by John Lewis

marchbook3Title: March: Book 3

Author: Lewis, John (Author’s Website). With Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell.

Genre: Comics, autobiographical comics, autobiographies and memoirs, graphic novels, history writing, life stories

Bibliographic: Top Shelf Productions, 256 pages, Paperback List Price $19.99, ISBN 9781603094023

Publication Date: August 2, 2016

Rating: ★★★★★/♥♥♥♥♡ (The rating scale is here).

Appeal Factors: Dramatic, compelling, black-and-white, dark, detailed, inventive, true

Why I picked it up: I devoured the first two books in the series in one sitting. I picked those up because I work for the House of Representatives and have always greatly admired Mr. Lewis, and wanted to know more about his experiences. I was there in July when he staged a sit-in on the House floor, and it really made me see him in a new light.

S.I.A.S.: Congressman Lewis concludes his autobiography of the Civil Rights movement with the Selma-to-Montgomery marches.

Summary: March is a memoir of John Lewis’s time as a Civil Rights leader in comic form, and this is the third and final volume. It opens with the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing on September 15, 1963, and follows Mr. Lewis as he leads the Mississippi Freedom Deomcractic Party (MFDP) in their attempts to gain national recognition at the Democratic Convention and as he leads SNCC (the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee) in their efforts to register black voters in Mississippi and Alabama, culminating in the march from Selma to Montgomery.

Evaluation:  I had a stronger emotional reaction to this book than to anything I can ever remember reading before. I was, in turns, enraged and devastated — this is only the second time (to my knowledge) that a book has ever made me cry, but it certainly did. Rep. Lewis gets his point across incredibly effectively, and leaves the reader feeling hopeful as the book comes to a close; you really do feel as if the inauguration of President Obama is the next step in the struggle, and that things can get better.

All of the characters are handled very well, especially considering that they are real people, many of whom are still living. Several times I put the book down to check something or get background details from the internet, but that wasn’t necessary for my understanding of the work. Rep. Lewis does an excellent job of providing all the information you need. While this is the third book in the series, it can be read as a standalone volume (although I would recommend the first two volumes just as strongly).

This might be especially useful for students

Significance: This is the first comic ever written by a member of the House of Representatives. It shows Rep. Lewis’s experience in a way that extremely uncomfortable to read, but also extremely worthwhile.

Readalikes: Maus, by Art Spiegelman. Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching, by Mychal Denzel Smith. The Silence of Our Friends, by Mark Long.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Reading this as a young person today, it may seem impossible that the simple act of registering to vote could have inspired so much anger and hatred. How have things changed since 1965? What still needs to be done?
  2. Rep. Lewis intersperses scenes from President Obama’s inauguration throughout the story. Why might the authors have chosen to do that?
  3. How do the issues in March connect to your life? Is there an issue about which you’d be willing to take a stand? Is there an issue for which you’d be willing to risk arrest, bodily harm, or death? Why do you think the marchers were so willing to risk so much?
  4. Do you think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were effective? Do you think they are still effective today, or does America need new legislation?
  5. What, in your opinion, are the next steps in the fight for total equality in the United States? Will the fight ever be over?

Lists and Awards: This volume hasn’t won anything, yet, but the other books in the series have won several; ALA Notable Children’s Books — Older Readers Category:  2014. Booklist Editors’ Choice – Adult Nonfiction for Young Adults: 2013. Library Journal Best Graphic Novels. School Library Journal Best Nonfiction Books: 2013. YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens: 2014. YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults: Get Graphic: Graphic Novels (2016). Eisner Awards: Best Reality-Based Work. Street Lit Book Award Medal: Graphic Novel. YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens: 2016.  Coretta Scott King Award for Author Honor: 2014. Robert F. Kennedy Book Award – Special Recognition: 2014. Alabama Author Award – Young Adult (2016).

Professional Reviews: Kirkus. Publishers’ Weekly. Washington Post. Washington Post (2). AV Club.

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