Book Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin by Nic Stone cover

Dear Martin
by Nic Stone
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: October 17th 2017
Rating: No end of stars
Times read: 1
Recommended by: The whole internet but I think that Goodreads' algorithm steered me to it first.

This review is going to be very personal.  I will probably not talk about the writing, the plot or the characters the way that I normally would.  Dear Martin is about 17-year-old Justyce McAllistera a highly successful black student who attends a primarily all-white private school.  One day, he is helping a drunk friend and arrested.  In response, he starts writing letters to Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. as a way to cope with his newly sharpened awarenes of the world around him

The world needed this book right now. This is a book that every school needs.  I am going to be buying copies for friends and family. I am a teacher.  I can see how this book would be an excellent way to help students start having these difficult conversations.  Because until we teach young people how to recognize and talk about racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia and whatever else needs to get talked about nothing will change.  They will unconsciously internalize the system's biases.  They won't see the things that need to change.  And that the things that need to change start with themselves.

I enjoyed the writing.  There are quite a few conversations that are almost written like a script.  Unusual but not distracting and I think that the convention highlighted the importance of what people were saying. I was fully investing the characters.  So invested that if I don't get regular updates about Justyce and assurances that he is thriving and well on his way to making the impact on the world that he deserves I am going to be so mad.  Aside from Justyce, the standouts for me were Manny, SJ, Jared, and Doc.  

You can’t change how other people think and act, but you’re in full control of you. When it comes down to it, the only question that matters is this: If nothing in the world ever changes, what type of man are you gonna be?
— Dear Martin by Nic Stone

One thing that seems to keep coming up is this sense of estrangement from self.  Everyone in this novel (and most likely life) has this idea of who they are that doesn't quite fit with the reality of who they are.  There are these ideas and visions that other people have about them that they don't know how to reconcile themselves with.  Justyce struggles to reconcile the two sides of his life, Jared doesn't recognize his internalized racism, and Manny overlooks 

Justyce starts to talk about "the Black Man's Curse" which I hadn't heard about before.  As I understand it, the BMC is the phenomenon that however well a black man does, however successful he may be they are never able to get to a point where they don't have to worry about racism. Or about their race affecting their life.  That someone is always waiting to slap you down, tread on your work, and assume that you don't deserve your success because you are a black man. Just the short term second-hand frustration of reading about it was overwhelming. I cannot imagine what it is like to have to live with and deal with it for your entire life. How strong do you have to be to push through all that is holding you back?  And what does it say about our society that we expect that?

So read this book.  It is well written, it is important, and it is going to stay with you a long time after you finish the final page.

From Goodreads:

Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.