“Long story short, I tried to do a good deed and wound up on the ground in handcuffs.”
Dear Martin has been on my want-to-read list for a while, and I was finally compelled to pick it up when I decided to pre-order the sequel, Dear Justyce. I regret not reading this sooner, but i’m so glad I finally gave it a shot.
We meet Justyce, a high school senior navigating his way through the school year. Justyce attends a prestigious private school and has some pretty insanely wealthy friends and classmates, despite being from a “rougher” (see: poorer, blacker) part of town. I had a vague idea of what the plot of this book would be, but I was actually pretty wrong. An event at the very beginning of the book starts to shake what Justyce thought he knew about racism in this country, and what he perceives as the “right” vs “wrong or bad” kind of Black people.
“Yeah, I grew up in a rough area, but I know I’m a good dude, Martin. I thought if I made sure to be an upstanding member of society, I’d be exempt from the stuff THOSE black guys deal with, you know? Really hard to swallow that I was wrong.”
After the incident at the beginning of the book, Justyce starts studying the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and keeps a journal that’s comprised of letters written to Dr. King. We alternate between these letters and chapters that detail what’s going on at school and in Justyce’s life. Stone includes some incredible discussions that take place between Justyce, his classmates and one of their teachers – I think these are some of the most powerful parts of the book because they will likely remind readers of conversations they have had, things they have said or things they have heard other people say.
“Prosecutor actually referred to me as a ‘career criminal’ at the hearing. I think that was prolly the moment I gave up. Why try to do right if people will always look at me and assume wrong?”
We’re also introduced to Quan and get to know him a bit better, which sets us up for the next book. I’m really looking forward to reading more about Quan’s story.
I would love to press this book into the hands of every high schooler and educator in America (at least at first – honestly, everyone should read this book). There are so many layers to this book and so many complex concepts but Stone does a great job of making this book very accessible for readers of all ages.