March: Graphic Memoir by John Lewis

Posted on February 10, 2020

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One of most beautifully written and illustrated portrayals of John Lewis’s awakening and life-long career as a civil rights worker is the graphic series, March.

The website for the book describes it this way: “Together with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, Congressman Lewis is creating a transformative work of literature in the graphic series March: a #1 New York Times bestseller that brings his memories of the civil rights movement to urgent new life” [Youtube].

This is the perfect series to read in 2020, a Census year and a Presidential Election year. Fuel your own fire for doing The Work of bringing about a more just and equal USA by reading this series.

You may not think you like “comics.” I used to think that–because the only comics I saw growing up were the Archies and superheroes on the very small magazine rack at the local drugstore, and I was not interested. Even as a child, I preferred history and science to fiction, so I rejected comics–but also, in the 1970s, the ink from the pages came off on my fingers, and I didn’t like that at all. I just lived my life ignoring all things comic-like.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/10/Persepolis-books1and2-covers.jpgUntil Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi came out. Satrapi kicked open the door to a whole new world of books for me. In the years since I’d rejected the Archie and the gang, “comics” had grown into a wide and sophisticated category of books that included every kind of story, including science, history, and memoir. Satrapi’s tale “is the poignant story of a young girl in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It is through the eyes of precocious and outspoken nine year old Marjane that we see a people’s hopes dashed as fundamentalists take power–forcing the veil on women and imprisoning thousands. Clever and fearless, she outsmarts the ‘social guardians’ and discovers punk, ABBA and Iron Maiden. Yet when her uncle is senselessly executed and as bombs fall around Tehran in the Iran/Iraq war, the daily fear that permeates life in Iran is palpable” [Youtube].

Like Satrapi, John Lewis’s story tells the truth about a life dedicated to fighting an oppressive government and celebrates the humanity of people in social groups that are demonized by those in power.

I bought the March series for my classroom library, and it was a favorite among students of all ages. I added my name to the list of readers waiting to read Book 1. Even though I consciously slowed down my reading process by taking a lot of notes about historical events, memorable quotes, and significant historical figures, I devoured the book in a few short hours. I was anxious to continue the story–but I had to wait for my turn; lots of readers wanted to read this series. This series became the basis for many beautiful and passionate conversations with students about our history and our role as citizens to defend and expand human and civil rights through democratic practices and policies.

Looking for your next book? Celebrate Black History and honor an American hero by reading a historical account rendered in fast-paced storytelling and arresting illustrations John Lewis’s graphic memoir, March. And then, lace up your shoes and join the march for a more just and humane USA in 2020. Join your local NAACP or other human/civil rights organization; write letters to legislators and newspapers; work on a campaign…democracy is in dire need of defenders, and John Lewis shows us how.

Meet John Lewis

In this clip, “John Lewis shares stories from the aftermath of the March on Washington, and how Selma became the stage for African Americans to fight for their right to vote, leading to the Selma to Montgomery marches.”