Saturday, 5 May 2018
Dear Martin Blog Tour: Best Books About Police Brutality
As a huge fan of Nic Stone's Dear Martin, which I bought and read when it was first published in the US last year, I was delighted to hear that Simon & Schuster were publishing it in the UK, and both thrilled and flattered to be asked to be on the blog tour for it.
I wanted to use my spot to celebrate some of the other incredible books published recently looking at the topic of police brutality, so here's the four that I would recommend to ANYONE.
Having said that, I recognise that my thoughts on these books are both less informed and less useful that those from Black people, so would also strongly encourage you to check out #ownvoices reviews and thoughts - here's a few great people to follow on Twitter.
Justina Ireland (also, buy Dread Nation, her latest release, which is INCREDIBLE!)
Jewell Parker Rhodes
Dear Martin by Nic Stone (Simon & Schuster)
An Ivy League-bound Black boy writes a journal to Martin Luther King to make sense of his thoughts on police brutality and racism, after being handcuffed for trying to help his drunk ex-girlfriend out. When a terrible tragedy happens, involving Justyce and best friend Manny, he's left under attack by the media.
Justyce is a fantastic character, as is white Jewish girl SJ, who actually recognises her privilege and strives to use it to help appropriately. I loved the way that Nic Stone looked at toxic masculinity and responses to affirmative action, as well as police brutality and media coverage of crimes. A relatively short read, and so gripping that I raced through it - despite being near tears by the end - this is outstanding.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (Walker)
A 16-year-old Black girl moves between the poor neighhbourhood she lives in and the fancy suburban prep school she attends, trying to fit into both. After the fatal shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend by a police officer, she becomes involved in protesting the crime.
It feels like you must have been living under a rock not to have heard the hype for Starr's story - it really is completely deserved. I'm hugely excited to see the upcoming film, because the book is an absolute masterpiece. Starr is a truly superb character, code-switching to try and fit in in both her neighbourhood and her school, while the fallout from Khalil's shooting is both heartbreaking and devastatingly realistic. Watching her find her voice was such a fantastic journey to witness, and one big speech near the end, in particular, reduced me to a sobbing mess.
Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (Little, Brown - currently not published in UK)
Marvin Johnson goes to a party with his twin brother Tyler, hoping to keep an eye on him. But they're separated after a police raid and Tyler goes missing, only to eventually turn up dead, killed by a police officer. Marvin mourns his brother, while trying to organise a protest, and support his grief-stricken mother.
This is the most recent read of the four for me, and I think it will stick in my mind for a long time because the portrayal of the relationships here is so, so good. Firstly the tight-knit family of twins Marvin and Tyler, their mother, and their wrongly imprisoned father, who writes letters back and forth with Marvin. Secondly the fantastic friendship group of Marvin, Ivy and G-Mo. And thirdly the new girl in Marvin's life, Faith, who has a tragedy of her own in her past, and is able to partially understand his loss and help him to grieve. Marvin is also dealing with an application to MIT, the college he's always dreamt of going to, and seeing him trying to carve out a future for himself while still reeling from the tragedy was really moving.
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (Orion)
(This is the only MG novel out of the four, by the way.)
Twelve-year-old Jerome, waving a toy gun around, is shot by a police officer and killed. As a ghost, he meets Emmett Till, who shows him how racism through the years has affected Black boys, while he also becomes visible to the daughter of the white officer who shot him. Parallel with this narrative, we get a 'before' one of the events leading up to him getting the toy gun.
Oh WOW. Book of the year for me so far, Jewell Parker Rhodes gives us a middle grade novel which is both heartbreaking and deeply educational. This was super-powerful, perhaps because it's aimed at an even younger audience than the previous three I've talked about, which for me heightens the tragedy. The author does an incredible job of making such a tough subject accessible to younger readers without ever sugarcoating the horror of both Jerome's death in particular, and the racism in general which has led to so many of these horrible instances. Outstanding.
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