I’m delighted today to be taking part in the blog tour of Nic Stone’s brilliant debut novel Dear Martin.
A debut confronting modern racism in America finally hits the UK
Justyce McAllister, a black scholarship student at an elite private school in Atlanta, is top of his class, captain of the debate team and heading for Yale. But his presumptions are challenged when he is arrested by the police for helping his druck ex-girlfriend late at night. This won’t be his final run-in with the police. The next time someone gets hurt…
“Why try to do right if people will always look at me and assume wrong?”
Despite leaving his rough neighbourhood, he can’t seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his prep school classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce’s gorgeous (and white) debate partner and Justyce is starting to feel guilty about how he feels.
Struggling to cope with it all, Justyce starts a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
How far has America come since 1968?
Reading is like a super power. It takes you to places you’ve never been, never seen and allows you to try an infinite amount of lives, explore different characters, worlds and experiences. Stories are the doorway to so many possibilities. Reading a great novel makes you feel, it creates emotion and touches your very soul. That I love.
We are all different and books, I believe, give us the chance to put ourselves in to another’s shoes. To feel their emotions, their hopes, their fears, their highs, their lows. Dear Martin is one such book. Superbly written, powerful, moving and an insight into racial hate and the effect it still has on the world today, this is an incredible book. Eye-opening and unflinching in it’s brutality, I was moved by Justyce and his story. Such an amazing character; he is brave, tough yet fragile and already so close to being broken. Justyce is at odds with the world around him. He is a good kid, smart and popular, yet for some these qualities are eradicated by the colour of his skin. In a world where people are still judged first by their colour, this novel shows that change does come, albeit slowly, but it comes.
The diversity is excellently portrayed. Nic Stone has the ability to look at situations from all angles and we are able to build a picture of how the situations arise and although heart-breaking in parts, it is only a reflection of what is still happening in our world today. Prejudice breeds prejudice. The refusal to accept difference is what keeps conflict alive. That constant lack of understanding and emphathy. We need stories like this to teach, show and inform.
“Jus, I think I hate everything,” she says. “Why can’t we all get along like butterflies?”
He tuckes her hair behind her ear. Tries to shift his focus to the TV, where layer upon layer of monarchs cover the trees in some Mexican forest. While he appreciates her sentiment, Jus wonders if she notices all those butterflies look exactly alike.
This book, like so many that are inspired by real life, has an important message. Having the courage to stay true to ourselves no matter what conflict or predjudice we might be facing is tough. We discover this alongside Justyce and at times he is pushed to his absolute limits, but ultimately it will be his own choices that will make the real difference.
I thoroughly recommend this courageous and thought provoking novel and think it would be an excellent choice for the classroom too. Dear Martin is Nic Stone’s debut novel and I look forward to reading more from her in the future. She is definitely an author to watch.
You can find out more about Nic by visiting her website here. Here is a snippet that I feel sums up our experience as readers perfectly…
It wasn’t until the summer I turned twenty-three and hopped on that plane to Israel that I began to get a real grasp on the role of Story in the human experience. I spent that summer stepping into other people’s shoes. There were the shoes of a Palestinian Christian girl living in the West Bank who wasn’t allowed into Israel Proper without a permit, but faced insane amounts of harassment in her neighborhood because of her family’s chosen faith. There were the shoes of the Israeli soldier who’d been trained to view all Arabs as potential threats, but was so sickened by it he couldn’t wait to get out of the army so he could leave the country. There were the small shoes of the children in the Palestinian refugee camps training to be Martyrs for Allah because they felt it was their call in life. There were the shoes of the orthodox Jewish man whose entire family had been murdered in his home by Palestinian militants while they slept.
As I listened to these stories and made an attempt at empathy—putting myself in their proverbial shoe—my perspectives shifted. Life became less about right and wrong, good and bad, black and white, and more about complexity and nuance, the power of the human being to bring either calm or chaos into the lives of others and the world around them. Storytelling revealed itself as a means of getting people to listen without interrupting. Done well, it engages listeners/readers to the point where they’re completely oblivious to the shifts in worldview taking place as a result of stepping into a different perspective.
The stories I heard over that summer, like my own, were the ones I hadn’t encountered in my Language Arts classes. And they shook me. They changed the way I approach people with beliefs that differ from my own. They changed the way I voice my opinions. In a way, they cleaned the lens through which I view the world.
I discovered that once I put on all those different pairs of shoes, I wanted to share those shoes and their impact with others. I wanted to tell the stories that weren’t being told, the ones featuring diverse characters in non-stereotypical roles, the ones that blurred the line between “right” and “wrong”, the ones that reveal the humanity in those who are underrepresented or misunderstood. Since that summer I turned 23, I’ve reread most of the books that I was unable to connect with as a teen, and I’m happy to report that I quite enjoy them now that I’ve found the shoes for myself. The answer to my identity crisis was simple: I am a storyteller.
Now get those shoes off so I can give you a different pair to try on.
Dear Martin is published in the UK by Simon & Schuster on the 3rd of May 2018.
Thank you to Eve at Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of Dear Martin and inviting me to take part in the blog tour. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time.