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March: Book One (March, #1)
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BotM Discussions > February BotM Discussion - March: Book 1

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Kate (kgskocelas) | 570 comments Mod
What did you think of this graphic novel? Did it change the way you think or feel about past or current events? Do you think the art fosters more understanding than if it were written as a prose book?

Tune in to the IRCB Podcast on Wednesday, March 1st to hear our discussion of this book. If it's ok to read your comments on the show, please include "OK TO AIR" in your post!

Ryan Lowery OKAY TO AIR


Virtually flawless. Skillfully written, beautifully illustrated, remarkably informative and enlightening.

Given today's political and social climate, March Book One (originally published in 2013) is eerily prescient and, arguably, a roadmap for peaceful and conscientious social change at a grassroots level.

March Book One begins the story of Senator John Lewis and his critical role in the Civil Rights Movement beginning in the early 1950s. Lewis and co-writer Andrew Aydin present the story against the backdrop of Barrack Obama's historical inauguration in January 2009.

Aydin captures a home-spun and folksy narrative told by Lewis about his upbringing in rural Alabama leading to his first inroads into social justice through peaceful sit-in protests in Tennessee. What struck me most about his story is how shamefully unaware I am about the Civil Rights Movement and black history in general. This is an inexcusable oversight on my part and perhaps a commentary on the public school system of the 1980s (the same can be said of my understanding of Native American history in our country). Regardless, I was moved by Lewis' account and Nate Powell's art perfectly matches the tone and intensity of the story. There is one wordless panel section depicting when John Lewis first meets Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The way Powell frames this sequence magnified the intensity and incredible impact this meeting undoubtedly had on Lewis' life.

There is plenty of historical information to review, discuss, and debate throughout this book. There were, however, two major themes that really stuck with me. First, the Civil Rights Movement, from an historical perspective, was basically yesterday! It is remarkable to think there are still folks among us who endured the unconscionable injustices brought about by segregation and inequality. Secondly, and perhaps most important given the current state of affairs in the U.S., March Book One emphasized the sentiment that one person can make a difference. This may sound trite but I think the takeaway is significant. It is easy to feel marginalized and ignored in the context of social media and 24/7 news coverage. The reality, however, is that change starts with you. And your block, your neighborhood, your city. But doing nothing is not an option.

I have books Two and Three on order and plan to share these volumes with my kids and my family. This book has also motivated me to explore more about Civil Rights Movement and black history. Excellent choice for this month's read!

Simon (siid) OK to air

First off all, could somebody please explain to me what’s the deal about Black History Month? As far as I understand it, February, coincidentally the shortest month of them all, is dedicated to African American history, right? From the perspective of someone who was raised in the old world (Austria) and who learned about African American history in history classes in general, the concept is a bit weird. Isn’t African American history part of, well, history? By secluding it from history classes, it kind of feels like segregation (in the classroom) all over again. Are teachers only allowed to talk about African American history in February? Granted this is a bit exaggerated, yet, it kind of feels that way.

So, now, that that’s off my chest…March: Book One; what a read! Written by the guy who POTUS Trump called “all talk, talk, talk – no action” in one of his infamous tweets, it tells the struggle of a young African American kid to fight for equal rights, the fight against discrimination. And best of all, it’s not fiction, it’s a biography and history lesson at the same time.

The art is impressive. For me, keeping everything in black/white makes absolute sense in two ways. First of all, if you think about that time, do you think in colour or in b/w? Most images I have in my head concerning that time, are in b/w. Be it photos or videos of MLK, Malcolm X or other icons of the Civil Rights movement, I see them all in b/w? Correct me if I’m wrong, but the majority of images from back then isn’t on the colourful side, isn’t it?

The other smart move about keeping in in b/w, is that the whole story covers the struggle between black fighting (obviously in a nonviolent way) white. Initially I was curious to see if at the end of Book Three, with gaining equality (I haven’t ordered Book Two and Three yet, so I don’t know where it ends) colour would sneak in, but after giving it some thought, according to that idea, the beginning of Book One, should have been in colour, since it basically starts with Obama being inaugurated. This might seem like the point in history when African Americans had achieved equality, yet the necessity of a Black Lives Matter-movement over the last years, shows that in reality, it is far from being so. ..therefore the struggle between black and white continues.

Still, while the art is good and all, the whole book is about history. I couldn’t have cared less if it was just matchstick man and poor art (which it obviously isn’t), since the most important thing about the book is the story. Like Spiegelmann’s “Maus“ (another history book in b/w) it is all about the story. And while Spiegelmann chose to depict his father’s story by using animals, Lewis and his crew show the whole brutality as well as the longing for equality and the spark of hope, as it was…no distortion, no trivializing…just the facts as he experienced it. Powerful stuff!!!

This book, and I assume the two follow ups as well, should become obligatory readings in schools. I myself was always more fascinated by the likes of Malcolm X or the Black Panther movement (I can relate to their anger more than to non-violent measures), yet the whole Civil Rights movement always interested me a lot. By using comics, people who might not be interested in reading big non-fiction books , and I assume that hardly anybody who read “March” also read any of John Lewis’ other books, a whole new generation could be introduced to a very important part of 20th century history. And for that feat alone, I complement John Lewis and his team.

KaitLphere | 177 comments Mod

A lot of what I have to say has already been said by Ryan. Until recently I thought of the Civil Rights movement as history, but current events have proven otherwise. This book starts with such a sense of hope, which continues throughout it, with the inauguration of President Obama, but our daily events show us that the struggle isn't over.

I always have a hard time with non-fiction, especially in comic form. I have categorized myself as someone who reads fiction, and the more romanticized or absurd, the better. Reading this book got me out of my comfort zone, which is exactly where I should be to be humane at this time in our nation's history. Shamefully, I probably wouldn't have read this if not for IRCB Podcast and this group.

I do feel the need to comment on the art. Again, black-and-white isn't usually my thing, although "I Kill Giants" recently proved to me that I need to change that. It is especially powerful, as Simon said, that this comic is in black-and-white because of all the racial themes involved. Specifically, I think sticking to black-and-white as opposed to a full grayscale spectrum enhanced the message of "all of nothing" towards the end of this book.

I also want to comment on the wonderful artwork in regards to body language and facial expressions. The anger in the faces of the pro-segregation white folks was chilling, while the hope in John Lewis's face kept me reading.

Alex Decker | 20 comments Okay to Air

Long time lurker, first time poster!

I really did not know what to expect when I began reading this book. It's a good choice considering the month and current events, but I tried to put that out of my mind as difficult as that might be. So to begin I enjoyed the book. I thought that the writing worked very well with the art work.

The use of the children visiting the office and having the main character using that time to explain the events of his life was a good choice of being able the toggle back and forth between the current and past. The writing was passionate and clear without being "preachy."

The use of the black and white coloring I thought was an interesting choice. As I write this I haven't done any research, so I wonder what the reasoning behind it was. My two immediate thoughts are: obviously one of the major themes of the book is race relations IE. black & white. My second thought is that the writer makes mention of the comic books that were read by youths at the time featuring MLK. Were they and black and white and was using these colors referencing that? I mean, it didn't bother me, but the cover is color, so it clearly wasn't something that they were opposed to for simple creative differences.

The book is clearly a very important book to read considering current events. It does a good job of taking a complex problem and distilling it down to how it effected Lewis and explaining his interactions with the problems without trying to push an agenda.

Simon (siid) Alex wrote: "but the cover is color,"

I think that is a very interesting point. Maybe the coloured cover vs the b/w inside is an allegory for the outwards /inwards appearance. (White) People were not really thinking about the colour/race issue, for them it was just business as usual. And many black people were used to it as well, even were afraid of a change. (After all, a black lady attacked MLK with a knife at some point, although, as far as I remember she was just nuts). So for these people, everything, on the outside, was just fine, therefore colourful. For the younger black community however, the black vs. white issue was all too real and posing a problem. It was the cause for anger even hatred and was eating them up inside, hence, the b/w displaying their reality of discrimination. So the coloured cover just symbolises something happy on the outside, while the b/w inside shows miserable reality?

...or maybe it's just the wine speaking:)

Kate (kgskocelas) | 570 comments Mod
Thank you so much everyone for really digging into this book! Your posts are articulate, thoughtful and passionate. I agree with everything you've written.

Ryan, the power of a resolute, strategy-driven and peaceful individual was the theme that resonated the most with me as well. It is so easy to feel like nothing we do matters, and Lewis's story proves that doesn't have to be the case. After reading it, I was more motivated than ever to continue working with my local progressive group.

Iurgi, I agree that this was best told as a comic. The art was frequently more moving than the text, and film doesn't allow the viewer to really sit with and study an image to understand and empathize with it.

Simon, POTUS's ridiculous criticism is what made me think of nominating this book! I completely agree with your sentiments regarding Black History Month. It should be taught all year round to everybody and this series should definitely be required reading. I wonder how different our current situation would be if every American student had to read and study Maus and March?

Kait, I like your comparison to I Kill Giants. The black and white art was used just as effectively in both books, especially in portraying facial expressions, body language and motion. Have you read The Complete Maus or The Complete Persepolis? If you haven't, I highly recommend them as your next nonfic comic reads.

Alex, thanks for speaking up! I lurk in some groups too, so I completely understand when people would rather just follow along. Yes, the images from that time were black and white, which I didn't think about in regards to the comic's color choice until you mentioned it. My mental images of the Civil Rights Movement are in black and white as well, and I think you're spot on that the comic fed into that. It brought those spotty mental images to life and wove them into a compelling narrative. I didn't feel like I was reading something educational (though I learned a great deal) or being preached at by the creators. I know how hard that is in nonfiction prose, so I'm taking it as an equally impressive feat in comics.

One of the main factors I use to rate comics on GR is how eager I am to read the next volume. March: Book One didn't just make me want the next volume in my hands, it made me anxious to read more prose about the movement as well. As a comic, it was expertly scripted, drawn and laid out. As a road map for our future, it speaks directly to the reader: "Listen," Lewis is saying, "this is how we do it."

message 8: by Mike, Host & Producer of IRCB! (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Rapin (mikerapin) | 590 comments Mod
Holy smokes. I wrapped this book up tonight (just before the podcast because I'm a slacker :P), and BOY does it read really well. I didn't realize I had finished it until I got to the last page.

More on my thoughts on this week's episode! :D

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