Disclaimer: I have no knowledge of changes that have occurred in the final version.
Sidenote: I encourage readers of The Hate U give to read this book too because it is fascinating the comparison and the contrasts of Malcolm X’s teachings and Martin’s in both books. It is just something that could spark a thought process or conversation or avenue that I feel should be explored after reading both books relatively one after another.
Dear Martin is a book that I was able to relate to because of the authentic black voice. Though I will admit, most of the vernacular if not all of it is not used in my specific black community, I was able to relate to the struggles of Justyce and a little of how he processed them and I loved that.
Throughout the book, Justyce struggles with his black identity with regards to how he is perceived by white persons (usually negatively) and how he has to deal with that on an emotional level. He writes letters attempting a social experiment with the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. What I love about Justyce specifically, besides the fact that he is an honour student, is that he has flaws with how he deals with his emotions and how that affects his interactions with others. Not necessarily that he is a “bad” character or person but that he is genuinely struggling to be human in a world that sees him as less than.
I feel like we, readers of Dear Martin, learn as we read about the different perspectives of black people dealing with the same issues throughout the book . I love how intertwined other characters’ stories are with Justyce’s story. It represents real life and we see how it isn’t necessarily the whole world seeing him as less than but a part that he can overcome within himself and still become the man he wants to be even though it feels like oceans are raging against him. Because at the end of the day, Justyce has the power within himself that he never truly knew he had until he experiences overwhelming hardships within this book. Obviously, he cannot necessarily overcome racism in that he cannot erase it by deeds and he isn’t imagining the racism occurring to him. The world of white people around Justyce exempting a few are racist but people who understand his struggle help Justyce step towards emotional maturity where he gets the strength to focus on himself and the greatness he is achieving rather than the ignorant people trying to hurt him because of what they stubbornly believe to be true.
As I was reading the book it was like Nic was saying, “We will overcome. Yeah, this sucks and it is depressing that people want you to fail because it will help their own worlds keep spinning. We will overcome, nevertheless.” And that message is so vital to younger and older black readers as a reminder (to those who have forgotten) of the strength within themselves. While this book supports the Martin Luther King message, I felt an undercurrent of Malcolm X beating although that is nowhere near the author’s intent or final message. I feel empowered to become the person I want to be, to have the freedom I want to have, by any means necessary. But, I also feel mellowed and the nonviolent message doesn’t seem weak but even more powerful when used in this particular teen’s struggle ultimately to understand the world and himself.
There is power in nonviolence. There is power in black people. There is power in being yourself when the world doesn’t want you to. And, ultimately, if we keep resisting, we will learn to ask more meaningful questions and gain the strength to find and dig up those more meaningful answers. Go read it for yourself and prepare to think, be changed, and be amazed.
I have said this once and I will say it again: Dear Martin is a work of humour, heart, and visceral emotion. It is one that opens the mind in a thrilling, exciting, heartbreaking way. Nic looks into your soul and opens it up to more possibilities with this book. This debut and its author are destined to be a stunner and have been for years now. Dear Martin will leave readers constantly asking for the next book and pleading, “When? When? When?”