Book Review: March, Books One, Two And Three by John Lewis

I’ve heard a lot about March, and I figured it was time to read all three books!  All three books are written by John Lewis and and Andrew Aydin, and illustrated by Nate Powell, and I borrowed all three from the library.

March: Book One

What It’s About: Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1950s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

What I Thought:

  • I really liked it!  I kind of wanted to start reading the 2nd book right away, but I also knew I wanted this one to sink in a little bit.
  • I liked seeing how he got involved in the civil rights movement.  Meeting Martin Luther King, Jr really changed his life
  • I really loved that the inauguration of President Obama was tied-in to his story.  It’s such a great parallel to how hard John Lewis fought for equal rights
  • I am still amazed that this was something that happened 50+ years ago…and how hard people are still fighting for equal rights and protections.
  • I thought a graphic novel was a really cool way to tell the story- it certainly would have been easier for Lewis to go the more traditional route as far as memoirs go, but a graphic novel worked really, really well
    • I think it’s because you can see everything that’s happening
  • There’s not a lot to this volume, but it does set up everything pretty well for the next two volumes

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, and I wish this volume were longer.

March: Volume Two

What It’s About: The #1 New York Times bestselling series continues! Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, continues his award-winning graphic novel trilogy with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell, inspired by a 1950s comic book that helped prepare his own generation to join the struggle. Now, March brings the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world.

After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence – but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before.

Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the young activists of the movement struggle with internal conflicts as well. But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy… and once Lewis is elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, this 23-year-old will be thrust into the national spotlight, becoming one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement and a central figure in the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

What I Thought:

  • I’m glad we get to see more of his story and his involvement in the civil rights movement
  • I really felt for Lewis and all of the Freedom Riders.  I don’t understand how people can be so hateful just because they wanted the same rights as everyone else
  • That they would arrest children…children!  I honestly didn’t know that, and I have such a hard time wrapping my head around that
  • I still can’t believe it was 50+ years ago that this happened, and yet…it’s still important to remember the people who fought for equal rights
  • I liked seeing why the non-violent approach was so important to him, and how he stayed true to that, even when it would have been easier for him to take a more aggressive approach
  • I also really like seeing some of the behind-the-scenes stuff in terms of organizing everything.  I never really thought about it before, but someone had to organize all of the protests and marches and get people working together
  • Even though I’m not the biggest fan of the illustrations, it worked really well for the story
  • I really liked the tie-in to Obama’s inaugaration.  I’m glad we get to see that alongside everything John Lewis worked for
  • This one is much more powerful than the first book.  I think it’s because the first book felt like it was setting up the rest of the story, and we were able to get much more into the rest of the story in this book.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, and while some of it might not make sense if you don’t read the first one, I think you can pick up on everything that’s going on if you’re pretty familiar with the Civil Right Movement.

March: Book Three

What It’s About: Welcome to the stunning conclusion of the award-winning and best-selling MARCH trilogy. Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, joins co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell to bring the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world.

What I Thought:

  • I think Book Three is my favorite of the three.  I had to wipe away tears a few times when I was reading it
  • Book Three focuses on the Selma to Montgomery march, and I was surprised that he was one of the people who led the march.  I don’t think we learned that in history class, but if we did, then I obviously don’t remember it, and that makes me feel sad because he, and many others, fought so hard for equal voting rights and equal rights
  • This book was much more heart-breaking than the previous two books put together- and they heart-breaking, don’t get me wrong- but I felt much more emotional reading this book than I did the previous ones
  • I loved seeing how what he wanted for SNCC and how that was different than some of the organizations he worked with.  And how what he wanted for SNCC was different than what some of the others in SNCC wanted
  • Telling this story as a graphic novel really was the best way to tell this story, because of the illustrations- the peaceful and non-violent protesters and what they had to endure, up against people who would do everything in their power to make them stop
  • Honestly, this book is so deserving of all of the awards it has won.  The whole trilogy should be required reading for EVERYONE, but in particular, this volume is worth reading
  • I finished this book feeling like I needed to do something…what, I’m not sure, but…I feel like just reading about it isn’t enough
  • I am in awe that they took a non-violent approach, when it would have been easier to do the complete opposite- and that they never gave up, even when it would be easier to give up, and not try to change things for the better
  • Page 190.  Just thinking about it makes me want to cry

My Rating: 5 stars.  For me, this book is the best one out of the three.  It’s a must-read for everyone, especially for those who think this story isn’t relevant anymore, that the civil rights movement is over and done with.  Words cannot express how grateful I am that they fought so hard for everyone to have equal rights and that they never gave up on trying to change things.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part One!

I’m back…sort of!  I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post, and I’m trying to get back into reviewing and blogging again.  I’ve been reading, but not up to reviewing.  But I still wanted to talk about the books I’ve been reading, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about the books I haven’t talked about yet.  I’m a bit fuzzy on some of them, since it’s been a while…but that’s not going to stop me from talking about them!

Book #1: Ghost by Jason Reynolds

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

Here’s what I thought:

  • It’s a middle grade contemporary about a kid who runs track, which I thought was cool.  I feel like track doesn’t come up a lot, as far as sports novels go.  Cross country, yes.  Track, not so much.
  • I don’t know that I remember enough to say anything else, but I remember thinking it was okay.  Then again, All-American Boys was such a great book that I had really high expectations.
  • I did like the parallels between running and what was going on in his life.  Especially with how running turned out to be a really good thing for him.
  • I don’t know that I’d read the rest of the books in the series- it looks like this is the first one of…I’m not sure how many.
  • It’s definitely a must read if you like stories about sports.  And also how to move on and deal with your past.
  • I think my rating would be 2 stars.  It’s okay, and not a lot stuck with me.

Book #2: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

My thoughts:

  • I really liked this book!  It’s a YA contemporary about Amanda, who transferred schools.  I felt for Amanda, who tried so hard to fit in, and who had to deal with a lot- bullying and transphobia are the first things that come to mind.
  • I really like that it’s not a coming out story- both are important, but I really liked seeing Amanda move to a new town and transition to a new phase in her life.
  • I liked the friendships she had too- people can be horrible, but I’m glad Amanda found some amazing people.
  • I can’t remember anything about the romance, other than I liked it…but that’s about it!
  • I loved the author’s note at the end of the book.  Don’t skip over it, because it really does add to an already awesome book.
  • I feel like I’m not doing this book any justice.  At all.  Mostly because it’s been a while since I’ve read it, and I remember next to nothing.  But it’s such a great book and really important and I doubt I’d do it much justice regardless.  But waiting months to do some sort of half-hearted attempt isn’t helping.
  • Part of why it’s important is because of what the book is about, but it is worth mentioning that the author is also trans.
  • And I’m not sure if it’s true, but the cover model is trans as well.  For some reason, that feels really important as well.
  • I know I got really emotional and starting crying at one point.
  • My Rating: 4 stars.  Had I reviewed it right after finishing it, my rating probably would have been 5 stars.
    • But I may re-read it at some point so I can properly talk about it.
    • I still really liked it though.

Book #3: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This is another hardcover from the library.

What I Thought:

  • I liked seeing how much Strayed changed during the hike.
  • She did seem ill-prepared for the hike, and I can see why some reviewers think she’s whiny and self-absorbed
    • and also why some people thought she made poor life decisions
    • There’s no judgement from me, though, because she did have a lot of things she had to work through, especially with the death of her mother
  • Hiking- especially since she was by herself for most of the hike- seemed to help her
    • there was a lot of opportunity for her to reflect on her life
    • she did randomly meet up with other people along the way, though
  • I think my favorite part was seeing her not give up, even when it would have been easy for her to do so
  • I can’t imagine doing such a big hike, especially with no hiking/backpacking experience whatsoever
  • It really felt like I was hiking with her, and it never felt boring or repetitive
    • I can’t imagine being alone with my thoughts for that long, but props to her for sticking with it
  • It’s a memoir of her experience hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, so if you’re looking for more information or history about the trail itself, this is not the book for you
  • I’ve heard of it before- because it was adapted into a movie, but I mostly picked it up because it was mentioned in one of the Gilmore Girls revival episodes
    • I’m glad I picked it up, though, because I really liked it
  • I think my rating would be 4 stars.  I didn’t love it, but it was an easy read, and there is something about the way she writes

Book #4: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad is a hardcover from the library.

And now, my thoughts:

  • This book deserves a lot more attention.  I feel like it didn’t get a lot of attention, despite the fact that it was an Oprah book club pick.  The publication date also got moved up because of it.  And I know it was recommended by Obama, so I had really high expectations.
    • It lived up to all of the hype…at least the hype that I heard.
    • It’s totally worth reading
  • I admit that I didn’t like it at first, and it took me a while to get into it.
    • I’m glad I stuck with it, though, because I really liked it
  • It is a hard read, because you see what it might have been like for slaves on the Underground Railroad
    • I’m not sure what to call them, but there are ads and wanted posters for runaway slaves, which really added to the journey Cora takes
  • The Underground Railroad is quite literal in this book but it was terrifying to see what it was like during that time period
    • so many people risked everything to be a part of it- whether they were a stop along the way, or the one trying to escape slavery
    • I know I said it already, but it really highlighted what it might have been like
  • It really is mind-blowing that people were willing to take a chance to have freedom than spend one more second as a slave
  • My rating: 4 stars.  It was hard to get into at first, but worth reading.

Audio Book Review: The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Mighty Miss Malone CoverBook: The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis, narrated by Bahni Turpin

Published January 2012 by Listening Library|Run Time: 7 hours, 59 minutes

Where I Got It: I borrowed the audio C.D. from the library

Series: None

Genre: Children’s Historical Fiction

Blog Graphic-What It's About

“We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful” is the motto of Deza Malone’s family. Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression has hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie’s beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father. The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.

Blog Graphic-What It's About

I wasn’t sure what to think about The Mighty Miss Malone at first- I had a hard time getting into it, but as I listened, I did like it more than I thought I would.

I think part of why I had a hard time with it, particularly at the beginning, is that Deza is very much a special snowflake.  She seemed a little too precocious and comes across as condescending.  I think that Deza has been told she’s special so much that she has a hard time handling not doing well on something- like when her best friend does better on an assignment than she does, and she expected her friend to feel bad about it.  She does seem to handle it a little bit better when she’s at a different school, but the book seems to be more about the Great Depression than race or segregation, even though it’s touched on a little bit.

And there were a couple points, especially towards the end, where it seemed like Deza’s love of reading and learning was very much encouraged, but Jimmie’s singing wasn’t really nurtured.  I’m not sure if it’s because the book is about Deza (and not Jimmie), but I definitely got the impression that Deza being good at school was more important than Jimmie being good at singing.

Still, we do see how racism affects her grades, and, more than anything, the book shows what it was like to live during the Great Depression.  It does do a great job of showing that, and I think that’s where the book shines.  It does touch on how hard it was for African-Americans to find work, and how much everything going on affected them.  For that alone, I’d definitely recommend the book, because I think it is something that needs to be talked about.

One thing that sort of confused me was when Deza, her mother and her brother arrive in Flint.  They’re supposed to stay with her dad’s mother (her grandmother) but once they get to Flint, there is no mention of her grandmother for the rest of the book.  And if they’re supposed to be staying with relatives there, then why do they stay in the shanty-town, instead of going to find Deza’s grandmother?  Unless I missed something when I was listening to the book, which is possible.  But why have it be part of the book, when it doesn’t even go anywhere, and is never mentioned again?

I wasn’t sure about the narration at first- I definitely didn’t like it, and I think the narration is a big part of why I didn’t like Deza at first.  Deza sounded a lot older than 12, and something about her tone of voice really grated on me, to the point that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep listening.  It did get better over the course of the book, and I do feel bad, because a person has no control over what their voice sounds like.  I definitely won’t be seeking out anything else narrated by Turpin, but for me, I might think twice about an audio book if I know she’s narrating it.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

3 stars.  I did like the book, because it does a wonderful job at showing what it was like to be alive during The Great Depression.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of Deza, or the narrator, but it’s a really good look at the Great Depression, and that makes it worth checking out.

Book Review: Parable Of The Sower by Octavia Butler

Parable Of The Sower CoverBook: Parable Of The Sower by Octavia Butler

Published November 1993 by Four Walls Eight Windows|299 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Earthseed #1

Genre: Adult Dystopia/Apocalyptic

Blog Graphic-What It's About

When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death Lauren Olamina, a minister’s young daughter, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny… and the birth of a new faith.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

Lately, I’ve been on an Octavia Butler kick, and while I have yet to read Kindred, I will get to it at some point.  I really liked Fledgling and Wild Seed but I didn’t like Parable Of The Sower as much as I thought I would.  I liked it, but not as much as I expected to.

Parable Of The Sower felt really dense, and I could only read it a few chapters at time before I had to put it down. It felt really slow, which does make sense, given it takes place over the span of several years.  And it’s in sort of a diary-format, which was fine, but I think that’s why it felt so slow to me.  Considering everything is falling apart, I was surprised that things moved so slow.

I did like seeing the community that Lauren wanted to build, especially in the world she’s living.  It’s only ten years from now, when the book takes place, so as far as time goes, it’s not too far off from where we are now. And I can picture a world where communities are nervous about new-comers or people passing through, and in some areas, being walled off.  And people stealing and starting fires because of a new drug out there (which I think was initially to cure Alzheimer’s that had some really bad effects), and water shortages….the water shortage is all too familiar to me, living in San Diego, so I can picture parts of the book really well.

Still, we are put in this world, where jobs are hard to find (also sort of familiar, in a general sense) and people are in debt to the point that debt slavery is a thing.  And I wish we had more context for what happened to U.S.  I got the general idea, but I kind of wanted more specifics about how the world Lauren lives in got to that point.

And in a weird way, I was reminded of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.  Partly because of the fact that the book takes place over a long span of time, but also because things are unraveling/have unraveled, and that there are small pockets of people banding together, and the time spent on the open road.  Other than that, I’m not quite sure why I thought of Station Eleven, but it could be an interesting read-alike for Parable Of The Sower.

There is a lot about gender, class and race in the book, and what it’s like for a California that’s set in the near-distant future.  I think that’s pretty typical for Butler’s work, if the other books I’ve read by her are any indication.  But I like that she does that, because it doesn’t seem to happen a lot.  Then again, maybe I’m just not reading a lot of books where it comes up (but I am trying to make more of an effort to do that).

I’m not sure how I feel about Lauren having hyper empathy, or able to feel other people’s pain/pleasure.  It seemed a little confusing, and how it affected her seemed randomly put in, and sort of distracting.  Like, how can she bike around, and not be affected by other people?  Or, how can she kill, but not die herself?  And, why/how did she outgrow bleeding when other people did, but not outgrow pain?  It seemed a little out of place in this world, and the only explanation we get for why she is that way is because her mom was a drug user.  It was actually kind of disappointing, especially after reading both Fledgling and Wild Seed.

I think it’s time to talk Earthseed itself.  I get Lauren created it herself, and she didn’t share her father’s religious beliefs.  A lot of people don’t, and that’s fine.  But it seemed more like a philosophy than an actual religion, but maybe that’s because it’s not really set up as an actual religion with followers in this book.  The Earthseed stuff wasn’t as interesting as I thought it would be, and I ended up skipping over all of Lauren’s Earthseed writings.  I get why she wanted a community, especially in the world she’s living in, but it didn’t really pay-off in this book.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

3 stars.  Parable Of The Sower felt really dense, and Earthseed itself was really uninteresting to me.  I just had a really hard time getting into it, but it could be an interesting read-alike for Station Eleven.

Book Review: Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

Wild Seed CoverBook: Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

Published July 1980 by Doubleday Books|245 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Patternmaster #1

Genre: Adult Sci-Fi

Blog Graphic-What It's About

Doro is an entity who changes bodies like clothes, killing his hosts by reflex — or design. He fears no one until he meets Anyanwu. Anyanwu is a shapeshifter who can absorb bullets and heal with a kiss and savage anyone who threatens her. She fears no one until she meets Doro. Together they weave a pattern of destiny unimaginable to mortals.

Blog Graphic- What I Thought

After reading Fledging last year, I figured it was time to read another book by Butler.  This was a really good choice, because I ended up really liking it!

I wasn’t sure about it at first, but eventually it won me over.  I think what really stood out was slavery and freedom, especially with how different Doro and Anyanwu are.  And with how they deal with their immortality and abilities…I felt really immersed in their world and what they (but particularly Anyanwu) were going through.  You see so many different issues, like race and sexuality, in Wild Seed through Doro and Anyanwu, and I really liked that about the book, because it somehow made the book more accessible and interesting to think about.  Especially since it’s sort of sci-fi but also sort of fantasy and sort of historical fiction.

The relationship between Doro and Anyanwu also really stands out to me.  They have a really uneasy relationship, and they definitely struggle for control.  Not only that, but their relationship is always changing, and with the span of time we see in the book, we see that highlighted really well.  Their lives are very much entwined.

I am curious about how they both got their abilities and discovered it in others.  It’s very much a normal part of life for them, even though those around them might not see them that way.  They may be seen as different by others, but their abilities don’t seem to be the main reason why in some cases.

Wild Seed is a really hard book to pin down because it’s not just one thing- it’s a mix of genres and touches on so many different things that I’m not even sure what to talk about next.  This is only the 2nd book I’ve read by Butler but I think it’s a great one to read if you’re new to her work.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

4 stars.  I really liked the relationship between Doro and Anyanwu and how much they contrast each other.