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Good Trouble

March to your nearest copy of John Lewis' graphic novel memoir of the Civil Rights Movement.

Good Trouble

BOOK REPORT for March (Books 1-3) by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell

Cover Story: Iconic
Talky Talk: Real Talk
Arty Art: History, Immortalized
Study Buddy: John Lewis
Extra Credit: Yes, We Can
Class Standing: Student Mentor

Cover Story: Iconic

Each cover of the trilogy features a significant event in the Civil Rights Movement and in each book itself: the Nashville sit-ins; Freedom Rides and the March on Washington; and the Selma to Montgomery marches. The word 'March' even seems to reflect the progression towards the momentous protest march, so these pictures are telling way more than a thousand words.

The Deal:

Long before he entered public office, Congressman John Lewis was a young man from rural Alabama who became a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Book 1 covers his childhood on his family's farm and his involvement in the Nashville Student Movement; Book 2 his continued activism and the start of his tenure as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committe (SNCC); and Book 3 his role in the Selma Voting Rights Movement.

Talky Talk: Real Talk

Given that this is a memoir, the language is historically accurate (esp. a particular racial slur), with some of the dialogue taken verbatim from famous speeches. The writing is straightforward, but there's a lot of history to digest, so you might want to pace yourself if you were unfamiliar with most of it beforehand, like I was.* And you might want to pace yourself anyway, even with the advantage of preexisting knowledge; the trilogy is split up in a logical way and the content warrants as much -- or as little -- detail as it's been given, but the total page count is unevenly distributed. (Book 3 is only 54 pages shorter than Books 1 and 2 combined.)

*My Canadian world history classes tended to focus on international wars and conflicts, so the bulk of what I know about American history is probably cobbled together from Wikipedia and Drunk History.

Arty Art: History, Immortalized

Sticking to a black-and-white palette, Nate Powell's illustrations realistically depict the many historical figures of March. Creative lettering also adds a subtle dimension to the writing; different font styles are employed based on the context, like cursive script for Bible verses, to distinguish the dialogue from the default of block capitals, and clever layout gives even more weight to the words. 

Study Buddy: John Lewis

A prominent politician nowadays, the Boy From Troy* went from preaching to chickens on his family's farm to orchestrating civil rights campaigns alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. by the age of 23. Even when confronted with danger and malice, Lewis remained (and remains) steadfast in his dedication to justice and nonviolence. Such a badass.

*One of the things that the past did well was nicknames. The racism, though, it can obviously keep.

Extra Credit: Yes, We Can

Not only does Lewis share his memories of the Civil Rights Movement, but he includes the ones of Obama's first inauguration as well. It's almost** unfathomable how so much cruelty could have been as rampant and accepted as it once was. Which goes to show how much progress has been made since then, but there's still so much work to be done. The inroads made in the past definitely didn't come easy, and some of the problems remain frustratingly relevant today (ahem, voter disenfranchisement and police brutality). Ultimately, though, it's heartening to remember that we have in all of us the capacity to make a difference. It doesn't have to be big to be meaningful -- because HELLO, not everyone can be as amazing as John Lewis. But wouldn't it be great if we all tried anyway?

**I'm not completely naïve. I keep up with current events, after all. 

Class Standing: Student Mentor

Informative and inspirational, these books are essential reading. They introduced me to people and events that I want to learn more about, and I'd be happy to enroll in another class anytime. 

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copies from the library. I received neither money nor gelato for writing this review (dammit!). March Books 1-3 are available now.

Mandy Wan's photo About the Author: Residing in Edmonton, AB, Mandy unabashedly loves YA lit, frozen desserts, and terrible puns.