Dear Martin by Nic Stone
What I drank prior: Water. This review requires me to be sober. The topic is way too important (especially to me) and it made me physically angry reading this book.
For those of you who don’t know what we look like… Here’s a photo of Ginny, my cousin Amy, myself, and Parker (in order from left to right). You are familiar with Ginny and Parker; they are my co-contributors to this blog and my very best friends.
Before I get started, I’d like to point out that, if it’s not absolutely clear in my photo, I am a white woman. I am incapable of understanding what it’s like to be a person of color. I recognize my privilege and try to learn as much as I can through books like this one among other things. While I am grateful you are reading this review, I’d recommend reading some own-voices reviews as well (If you have an own-voices review, please let me know and I’ll link them here).
Justyce is a high school senior on a full ride to the top-rated private school in Atlanta. He’s one of the top kids in his class and his Ivy dreams are within his grasp. The story begins with Jus going to help his not-white-but-light-skinned-ex get home when she’s drunk, like a NICE PERSON WOULD DO, and he gets berated, assaulted, and cuffed by a cop who thinks he’s “car-jacking her.” Literally. First chapter. So, here I am already a little heated because this is something that Parker, without any hesitation, would do for me. Justyce gets out of it cause all his friends are rich folk slash lawyers slash important people in the neighborhood. Not even all white, his best friend, Manny, is probably the wealthiest of them all but he’s black. If anything, this book is super representative of a rich neighborhood. At least, the ones I grew up near.
Anyway, this sparks Justyce to see a lot of the not-so-forward racism that he faces on a daily basis. Jus decides to “Be Like Martin” and tries to institute Dr. King’s methods to his daily life. Even writes him letters when he’s frustrated. It’s actually a brilliant idea…
Manny’s childhood (white) friends are the picture of ignorance. In debate class they discuss whether racism is still a Thing in this country. OF COURSE, there’s the one guy who is adamant that everything is equal. He takes it way too far, which again sparks my anger. This book pulls NO punches when it comes to this topic. Literally, they discuss institutional racism, affirmative action, stereotypes, gangs, and more. All of it, this guy says the wrong thing, every time. Even so much as to say basically “All I know is, when I’m walking down campus and I see a minority, I am going to wonder whether they deserve to be there.” (loose quote, I don’t have the book in front of me).
Trigger Anger Spike #5 for Sam (I can’t actually talk about all of them or I’d never finish this review). Not only is the quote terrible, but hearing this through the eyes of Justyce made me, not for the first time, realize what Parker regularly deals with. Something I will NEVER have to go through. Not an exaggeration, Parker is so much smarter than I am. Undergrad from UVA, Masters’ in Education from Duke (though was accepted to tons of excellent schools including Stanford; also FUCK DUKE), and now works at the same company as me. He is WAY more educated. How DARE someone “wonder if he deserves to be” anywhere? Certainly deserves it more than I do. GRRRRR. Ok. Moving on. Going into spoiler-y stuff because I still have more to say.
So, in the shooting where Jus is shot and Manny is killed for literally no reason, we get into the bits about why the Black Lives Matter movement began. Similar to The Hate U Give, Justyce’s character is smeared in the media, because of the Halloween costume when he dressed as a thug, which NOT TO MENTION, was part of a group costume which included someone dressed as a Klansman. (I was in a fit of rage, I think this was Anger Spike #3 if I recall correctly). Again, MY BEST FRIEND has attire similar to what the stereotype would categorize as “thug-ish.” Again, not for the first time, I was reminded that he has to think about what he freaking wears, to make sure he’s not accosted by the police. I kept thinking over and over again, what would I do if Parker and I were in this situation? And I have no answer…
Here’s my major point: Parker could have easily been Justyce and he should not have to live like that. Everyone should be equally as angry as I am, regardless of whether your bestie is black, because no one should have to live like this.
Anyway, as you can see, I had a lot of feelings about this. This book is deep, emotionally raw, and personally relatable to me. We didn’t even get to SJ, the white-girl-bff-maybe-romantic-interest. She’s a great character, but you’ll have to read the book to see why ;-).
Pairing: Depends on what you want out of it. If you want to drown in misery, whiskey or scotch. If you want to appreciate this book for the excellent quality that it is, a finely crafted, high ABV beer.
Rating: 5/5 Shots obviously. I had to do a sober review for it.
COMMENT DOWN BELOW: What were your thoughts on this book? Do you have anything you want to say/share? This book is supposed to continue a discussion and we’d love to continue it here with you.
Thanks for reading my first (and hopefully only) sober review. Until next time, we remain forever drunkenly yours,