March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

I am so glad that I got over my “I don’t read graphic novels” thing.  What was that about, anyway?  I’d just never read one before, so I didn’t know what I was missing.  It was like my five year-old and everything he won’t eat.  I tell him, “You think you don’t like blueberries, but you don’t know, because you haven’t even tried them.”  (Yes, readers, my son currently won’t eat blueberries, among other things that are yummy.  I know.)

march_book_two_72dpi_lgI don’t review a lot of the graphic novels I read, but I knew I had to review March: Book Two.  It’s going to be one of my favorite books this year, I can tell.  I read March: Book One back in June, gave it five stars on Goodreads, and knew I wanted to continue reading the series. The first book introduced us to the legendary U.S. Congressman John Lewis’s background as a farm boy growing up in rural Alabama and how he got involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement.

Book Two opens with the SNCC working in Nashville to desegregate fast food restaurants and movie theaters.  But its real center is the Freedom Rides, which tested out the 1960 Supreme Court case that was supposed to desegregate buses and bus terminals nationwide.  We meet the first group of Freedom Riders, an integrated group of mostly young people from all over the country, as they get ready to travel deep into the segregated American South.

IMG_3630I don’t know about your high school history classes, but even though I had some amazing teachers, we never seemed to get much beyond the Second World War chronologically.  So though I had heard of the Freedom Riders before, I didn’t really make an emotional connection to the horrors they had to face for simply riding a bus.  Reading March: Book Two, seeing the powerful illustrations, made me feel the hatred and violence in a way that no text book or lecture could.

Juxtaposed with the beatings and the hard work of negotiating the tone of their nonviolent campaign is the promise and hope of the inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009. This is moving, knowing how far our country has come in 50 years, while still realizing how much work we still have to do to deal with racism. IMG_3631  Probably the most chilling aspect of the graphic novel was the extent to which some Southern politicians and police officers colluded with the vicious mobs, allowing them time to work over the Freedom Riders before they stopped the beatings.  Reading about how open these men were with their racists ideologies made me feel ill, knowing that there are those today who aspire to political office with similar belief systems.

I highly recommend both March:Book One and March:Book Two even to those who don’t care for or haven’t ever tried graphic novels.  I am so glad that these volumes exist, and that perhaps students will read them and become more aware of such a horrible part of our history.  My mom was a six-year old when these men and women were getting viciously attacked for doing something legal in the eyes of the Supreme Court.  She was eight years old when Congressman Lewis and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were speaking at the march on Washington, D.C. in 1963.  It really wasn’t all that long ago, although it sometimes seems like it.  Much of the work that we need to do as a country involves reckoning with our history, and I think young white people in particular need to learn more about the Civil Rights Movement and the South’s violent pushback.  I’m so glad that I read these powerful books.  The concluding volume of this series, March: Book Three, just became available earlier this month.  I’m eager to read it.




20 thoughts on “March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

  1. I always try to remind my students that there’s a difference between formats and topics – graphic novel is really just a format, and it can be used to tell stories from all sorts of genres and subjects. History, memoir, biography, science fiction, comedy, romance – pretty much anything can be given the graphic novel treatment, so there just might be something for everyone!

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  2. Heh glad you’ve come to love graphic novel as well! I was like you before college, but thankfully learned there how awesome sequential art can be. Scribd has at least the first 2 March books, should I binge or savour them one at a time?😃
    I’m sure your son will come around, blueberries are just too yummy!

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  3. There is always a smidge of panic that wriggles around when I see a “book two” when I feel like I’ve just added a “book one” to my TBR, intending to get right to it, but I do still really want to read this series. And now that you’re saying the concluding volume is now available, I’m echoing Bina’s idea of binge-reading them. Maybe I’ll just tell myself that I planned it that way! Heh

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  4. I’ve never really tried a serious graphic novel – a Manga version of Pride and Prejudice and a Neil Gaiman story and that’s about it. But this does sound like a good way to present history, especially to young people who may not want to struggle through a ‘proper’ history book. Don’t know that it’s for me, but I’m glad you enjoyed it. Is it sad that I just about remember Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination? One of my earliest political memories, though I had no idea what it was all about until many years later.

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    1. I’m glad that people use the graphic novel format in different ways – this particular series has shown me that they can be used to educate and, hopefully, empower. But I like the fun ones too! How was the Manga Pride and Prejudice?


      1. Brilliant! I loved it – it was so much fun! They’d taken all the social commentary out of it and just left a charming and light-hearted romance, but with so much humour and great art. One of these things that brighten your day! They did more, like The Scarlet Letter, but I didn’t find they worked so well without the humour of P&P.

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  5. I was so stubborn about graphic novels as well! I don’t know why, I was just a snobby little book nerd. That was my mentality before I started blogging, but then I saw the book blogging community and all the kinds of stories people were reading and that I was missing. Reading graphic novels has also allowed me to explore diversity in comics and GN, which is a whole other interesting field and discussion.

    I absolutely MUST read Volume one of March. Thanks so much, Laila. I hope to secure a copy in the coming weeks. Graphic novels are a joy to read because I can finish them so quickly! haha, sorry, this is really important for me to feel like a productive reader. 🙂

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    1. You’re welcome, Naz. I’m glad that I am not the only one who had that block against graphic novels, silly as it is. I am with you on that feeling of completion after reading a graphic novel. (Although it kinda still feels like “cheating” but I think once I read more graphic novels I’ll get over that too. ) 🙂 I hope you enjoy March once you can get to it!


  6. I feel like in school the only thing we are taught is “I Have a Dream.” Good enough, teachers seem to say. But there were so many things MLK did that I don’t agree with, and I tend to side with Malcolm X’s beliefs and appreciate how he changed them as the situation changed. I took an entire class on the Civil Rights Movement when I was in college. That, combined with a graduate class called “Black Detroit” (and yes, it was exactly about that), I feel in love with African American history and literature. I teach it whenever I can now, and I require The Autobiography of Malcolm X in my ENG 101 classes. I’m glad to hear you liked this book. There are so, so many graphic novels I could recommend to you.

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    1. Melanie, I know very little about Malcolm X and that’s partly because we’re not taught much about him in school. I want to rectify that. March mentions him and Congressman Lewis talks about how he didn’t agree with his philosophy but still respected him as a person. I am so glad that I have begun to delve into graphic novels. A whole new world of books has opened itself up to me! Very exciting.

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      1. That’s one of the first things I ask my students when they begin Malcolm X: what do you know, and why. Most of them know nothing, or they say he was a violent angry many during the Civil Rights Movement. Then, they read his book and find how wrong they were. It’s a long autobiography, but it’s fascinating. If you get the time, read it! It reads like a story, not like a textbook.

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