Dear Martin by Nic Stone (210 pages)
In Dear Martin, when Justyce is Unlawfully Arrested, He Doesn’t Know Where to Turn
Justyce has spent his life prepping for the Ivy League; he’s at the top of his class and keeps his head down as he strives to succeed. But when Justyce gets caught up in a racially-charged altercation with an off-duty police officer, his future suddenly becomes unclear.
Justyce is riding around town with his friend Manny with their windows down and the music up. A white off-duty cop is enraged and before Justyce realizes what’s happening, shots are fired. Not only is Justyce’s safety at risk, but now his future is too.
As Justyce deals with the fallout of this event, he doesn’t quite know where to turn. He receives mixed messages about how he should react and instead chooses a more introspective option: he begins writing letters to Martin Luther King Jr.
In these letters, Justyce expresses his rage and despair as he works to find the best path to follow. As the media scrutiny intensifies, Justyce must decide what’s most important to him as he reacts.
An Honest and Poignant Read
As I’ve mentioned before, I want readers to understand that as a white woman, I am incapable of truly understanding the issues discussed in this novel. As you begin to read more BIPOC works, please consider reading own-voice reviewers!
I first read this book so that I could add it to my American Literature curriculum. I was looking for novels by and about people with identities that differ from the majority of my students’ in an attempt to help them learn about the world around them through reading. What I did not expect was to read this entire novel in one sitting.
Nic Stone crafts this novel as a combination of typical narration with the letters that Justyce writes to Martin Luther King Jr., which makes for a read that keeps your interest piqued. I was struck not only by the racially-charged incident that kicks off the plot but also by the microaggression that Justyce deals, and comments on, throughout the novel.
Through this novel, Stone makes it clear that even “good” neighborhoods can promote a system that offers privilege to some while vilifying others. Not only did I find this an important read, but so did my students.
The Bottom Line: 5/5 Brookie Stars
Many of us are looking for ways to educate ourselves about systemic racism and other related topics. I’ve often found that reading fiction can be a great way to learn more about any topic because you not only learn new facts but also get to see how characters act within these spaces.
Dear Martin is an accessible read that I loved and so did my high school students. I had several students tell me a few years ago that this was the first book they had actually read in school. While that upsets me as a teacher, I was struck by how much this novel mattered to them. Nic Stone’s other works are also definitely worth reading too.
Looking to read Dear Martin, grab your copy under our Books of The Month in our Brookstore.
Rachel Gomes is a 30-something high school English teacher who lives with her high school sweetheart-turned-husband and their son. Rachel is a voracious reader who loves to learn and has her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction. She’s happiest listening to podcasts and talking to friends about the latest news in nerd culture.
Favourite book: Don’t make me choose between A Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter
Favourite brunch spot: The Farmer’s Table