Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Title: Dear Martin
Author: Nic Stone
Publication date: 2017

Date started: 06/08/2018
Date finished: 13/08/2018

First sentence: “From where he’s standing across the street, Justyce can see her: Melo Taylor, ex-girlfriend, slumped over beside her Benz on the damp concrete of the FarmFresh parking lot.”
Last sentence: “Jus reads the words on Manny’s headstone: I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice. ‘Me too, Jared,’ he says. ‘Me too.’”
Favorite sentence: “That idiot ‘pundit’ would rather believe you and Manny were thugs than believe a twenty-year veteran cop made a snap judgment based on skin color. He identifies with the cop. If the cop is capable of murder, it means he’s capable of the same. He can’t accept that.”

Summary: Justyce goes to a fancy high school where he and his best friend Manny are the only black kids. He has high grade but when he is accepted to Yale, some white kids let him know they think it’s because of affirmative action. His debate team partner SJ always defends him but he doesn’t care about race issues much. That is, until he finds himself handcuffed for a whole night after he tried helping out his drunk ex-girlfriend… This shocks him and he finds himself reading the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and starts writing him a notebook about what he experiences. He tries to peacefully promote dialogue even when his friends dress up as Klansmen for Halloween. But one evening, an incident happens between him and Manny’s white friends, and punches fly. Manny doesn’t take his side at first, but eventually the event opens his eyes about how much shit his white friends are giving him because he allows them to be racist around him. They’re having a discussion about what happened in Manny’s car when a white man in a nearby car starts insulting them for playing loud music. When Manny turns the music up, the man calls them the n-word before pulling out a gun… Justyce is severely injured, but Manny is dead. The man was an off duty cop. From there, the media is doing all they can to show how bad people Manny and Justyce were and how they basically deserved what happened to them. But nothing is black and white as the cop also gets his house burned down and eventually gets murdered in the prison where he’s awaiting for the trial. Things are strange and painful and Justyce is in the middle of the storm. He briefly considers joining a gang just to have people who understand what he’s going through, but he ends up coming back to his senses, and finds a girlfriend instead, SJ! He goes to Yale, has an asshole roommate but finds renewed friendship with one of Manny’s former friends, who realized how bad his behavior was and is now majoring in civil rights law.

Opinion: I was expecting a novel very similar to The Hate U Give, but this was actually quite different, because where THUG focused mainly on police brutality and the overpowering racism in medias and the justice system, Dear Martin kept those themes in the background and I felt like the every day casual racism was the bigger focus. It was shown in Justyce and Manny’s white friends’ behavior, and the fact that they actually had several debates about race issues in the book. During one of those debates, a white guy says “What kind of teacher has the nerve to suggest there’s racial inequality to a classroom full of millennials?” and it just… made me so angry… to realize that some people actually, really think that racism doesn’t exist in modern USA? That it’s a thing of the past? That people who insist there’s still racist discriminations are either delusional or too sensitive? This was only shown in THUG as something very distant, as the institutional racism that white people aren’t aware of, and it’s easy to be angry at institutions but they are a very abstract enemy. To have actually some important characters saying things like “racism isn’t a thing” made it way more real and concrete for me, and I really appreciated that (even though it was very hard to read at times). Otherwise I felt like the book was a bit too small and quick to read, but it was very emotional and made me cry several times.

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