March Books 1 & 2 by John Lewis

Most of the time, comics and graphic novels are a media used to tell larger than life stories, such as Superman taking down Doomsday or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles facing off against the Foot. I love these stories. I hope they never stop making them.

In addition to these works of fiction, I think graphic novels should also produce more memoirs and historical books – like Maus by Art Spiegelman, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Palestine by Joe Sacco, and countless more that give the personal accounts of people experiencing historic times. These books give a more personal connection between the authors and the viewers because they are not only telling the stories of their lives, but recreating the scenes from their views and emotions.

march-book-1-cover              march-book-2-cover

I was just able to read March Book 1 and written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. Lewis is a congressman from Georgia and is the only one still alive of the speakers from The March on Washington in 1963. Aydin is one of his aides. After learning about the influence of the comic Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story had on a young Lewis to get involved in the peaceful protests, Aydin encouraged Lewis to write his own graphic novel to try to give the same influence. Lewis agreed, and together they wrote Lewis’ memoir, giving details from his childhood, teenage years, and young adult life, while juxtaposing Lewis’ presence at the inauguration of President Barack Obama in January 2009.

The book starts out giving some details about Lewis’ childhood. His affection for the farm animals he takes care of and his love for school make him a likeable character for many readers. It ensures we’re on his side when he grows older and tells of his time at college, his involvement with the sit ins at lunch counters, his time with The Freedom Riders, and many other peaceful protests which were often met with a violent response from many white people and police officers.

march-book-2

In school, I learned about the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. I know about Rosa Parks. I know about Martin Luther King. I know the basics. What I learned was a group of people were being discriminated against and had to stand up to fight for their rights. What you don’t understand in school is how individuals were affected by these events. When Lewis recounts the attacks he and his fellow protestors endured, you can see his face bloody and beaten, and one of the other Freedom Riders beaten to the point of being left paralyzed. This invokes a much more personal and emotional response than just hearing the general overview.

March is being used as required reading in college courses now. As a former intern with The Institute for Comics Studies, which promoted the use of comics and graphic novels as educational materials, I’m very happy this change is happening and that people are appreciating the art and story of graphic novels as much as regular text. I hope this trend continues and we get more and more material integrated into schools.

What graphic novels do you think should be used in schools?

march-book-1-cover
March Book One
Written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Art by Nate Powell
Published August 2013
Top Shelf Productions
march-book-2-cover
March Book Two
Written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Art by Nate Powell
Published January 2015
Top Shelf Productions

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