Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: This is the third and final volume in the graphic memoir series tracing Representative John Lewis’ participation in the Civil Rights Movement, culminating in the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1967-known as Bloody Sunday.
What made me pick it up: I read the first two installments so was planning on picking it up, but since it’s won roughly one billion awards* I scooted it to the top of my read-ASAP list.
My favorite things: This final volume is reliably great in a number of ways: the black and white art is strongly affecting, the storytelling is compelling, and the content is relevant and important as ever. One of my favorite things, throughout the series, are the brief scenes from the 2009 presidential inauguration. They effectively illustrate the impact of civil rights activists’ relentless efforts and remind us of how much can be accomplished within a single generation.
Who it’s great for: Teens and tweens who want to understand the Civil Rights Movement. Fans of history and memoir. Graphic novel and comic readers interested in real-life human superheroes.
*Awards: National Book Award** for Young People’s Literature; Coretta Scott King Award (Author); Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award; YALSA award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults; Michael L. Printz Award
**See Stamped from the Beginning for my review of another National Book Award Winner.
Originally published in: 2016
What it’s about: This book traces racist ideas and their impact on African American and other Black lives in the US from the earliest arrival of European settlers through today. Okay, so I have one problem with this book: the subtitle. Not a lot of time is given to other people of color in the US and, realistically, one book couldn’t do that and probably shouldn’t try. I definitely don’t want to diminish the impact of the book-I think it’s very well done and important. To me the subtitle is a little misleading, but maybe it’s just me.
What made me pick it up: It won the 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction, and I’m trying to make sure that I read all of the winners.
My favorite things: This book is meticulously researched and incredibly thorough. Kendi breaks down racist belief systems into a variety of often conflicting ideas. He identifies assimilationist and segregationist thoughts that have sometimes been used to promote civil rights, and contrasts them with truly antiracist ideas. Kendi does a great job of illustrating the ways these ideas have been built upon over time and how we have arrived in the current moment with some voices declaring a “post-racial” society while others point out clear racial tensions and divisions.
Who it’s great for: People who want to understand where the Black Lives Matter movement came from and why it seems so divisive. History buffs interested in a different focus than they may be used to reading. Readers interested in racial justice and civil rights.