I wasn’t planning on posting this review today because A) I literally just managed to find a copy of Dear Martin by Nic Stone today andB) it’s Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon and I’m supposed to be reading not writing. However, I just finished Dear Martin and I have so many feelings that I knew there was no way I was going to be able to read another book until I started writing my feelings out so, why not just make it a blog post? I need to write my review anyway and now I have a good excuse to watch some Booktube Own Voices reviews of Dear Martin to include in this post.
I know the numbers. I graduated from law school. I watched 13th and I follow the news and I care so much about fixing the criminal justice system to make it more equitable because I believe in justice, I believe in the truth of the 14th Amendment. Section 1 of the 14th Amendment includes this: No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
We didn’t have it right when Thomas Jefferson penned, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” And we didn’t have it right when Congress passed the 14th Amendment in the wake of the Civil War. It would be years until some of us were lulled into a sense of post-racism equality. These past few years have shattered that illusion for many, but some, like Jared in Dear Martin, want to cling to the notion that we’ve done it. We’ve finally created a country that has not only lived up to the ideals of our forefathers, but surpasses those ideals. Unfortunately, that delusion is just that, a delusion. It is also dangerous. And Dear Martin does it’s level best to expose us to that fact and to level us with the reality that black people face daily. For white people, it is likely a wake up call.
For some perspectives from black people and their reading experiences, I will direct you to BooksandBigHair’s review video on YouTube and to Ryy’s review on his blog, which you can find here. I subscribe to Books and Big Hair’s channel on BookTube and would highly recommend you do so as well. Her real name is India Hill and she’s currently writing her own book so a person to watch out for! I’m sure you can find many more reviews from others whose lived experiences more closely resemble Justyce’s than mine and would encourage you to seek those out.
I’m going to provide you with the Goodreads synopsis because I’m afraid to spoil too much…
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.
I wish that we didn’t need this book because I wish that we had achieved Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream. Since we haven’t, we need this book. I need this book. I had an interview the other day where I said that seeing the sheer amount of people seeking domestic violence protective orders in Durham County made the statistics that I can recite with ease real to me in a way the numbers didn’t. So for the people who know the numbers, but who can’t wrap their minds around a world in which racism is a thing that black people deal with every day, I hope that Dear Martin can provide that sort of wake up call for them. For the people who experience racism the way Justyce does, I hope Dear Martin provides you with the kind of cathartic reading experience that reading Bad Romance gave me. No matter who you are, I hope you pick up this book. And then I hope you buy a copy to donate to a local high school or library or to give to a teen you know or pass along your own copy, or if you cannot afford to do that (which I totally get because same!) that you post a review somewhere, Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Litsy, Goodreads, Twitter… I legitimately don’t care. People need this book right now. It’s a hard, but necessary read, and I cannot encourage you strongly enough to read it.
I also want to say that we white people have to do better. I have four cousins that are black and they are precious to me. I do not want to wake up one day and discover that any of my cousins have become a hashtag. So in advance of that happening, I ask that you please, please do what you can to end racism. Call out your friend’s racist jokes. Listen and believe people of color when they tell you something that’s happened to them. Uplift people of color’s voices. Lend support where you can. And educate yourself on issues like criminal justice reform. Please.
Finally, I leave you with this amazing vlog from Bae Radley. She was able to go to Nic Stone’s launch event and captured some truly excellent footage.