On December 4, Nic Stone, the author of Dear Martin, visited Cedar Shoals High School after students from Mr. Brent Andrews’ 11th grade American Literature classes read the book.
Stone’s goal in writing is to appeal to young adults who are typically uninterested in reading.
“My number one objective in writing books is getting kids who don’t like to read to start reading. This book is deliberately short and jumps when it comes to the formatting for the sake of holding the attention of people who don’t like to read or people who struggle to read. I’ve gotten e-mails from kids that say ‘I’ve never finished a book in my life, but I finished yours’. That’s what I’m after,” said Stone.
Dear Martin is the story of an African-American high school student who faces police profiling as well as stereotyping from his peers. The story begins with the main character Justyce McAllister being arrested for helping a biracial girl, Melo, who appears white. A white cop assumes Justyce is trying to cause her some form of harm, despite both Melo and Justyce respectfully explaining the truth of the situation. Thereafter, Justyce is forced to sit in a pair of cuffs for hours. Justyce then writes letters to Martin Luther King Jr. to deal with the microaggressions he starts to realize at his majority white school as well as the conflicts he continues to see between young black men and white cops.
Stone found inspiration for Dear Martin from the conflicts in the nation concerning young African- Americans and cops and the idea that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have supported the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I really wanted to explore this idea of ‘what would Dr. King say, what would he do?’ if he were alive today and witnessing current events. That’s really where the novel came from, so I decided to have this kid who is dealing with this stuff, writing to Dr. King and trying to process life through the lens of Dr. King’s teachings,” said Stone.
Dear Martin addresses the issues of profiling and stereotyping young African Americans. Stone has experienced this first hand growing up. Justyce is the only black student in his school, and Stone bases this off of her own life. By writing this book she acknowledges the injustices she faced in school.
“A lot of the experiences that I had being the only black kid in class, I didnt even process until I started writing this book. In the book if you notice, where Justyce is sitting in the classroom and there are people arguing about stuff that pertains to him, he doesn’t really say a whole lot and that is because I didn’t really say a whole lot,” explained Stone.
At the event, Stone encouraged students to talk about the stereotyping they have encountered in their lives. The students were shy at first but when Stone opened up and told a few of her stories, students were willing to discuss what has happened to them.
“I had my students, on the first day we were reading the book, write about a time they were stereotyped. Nic Stone actually asked ‘How many of you have been followed around a grocery store? Tell me your stories.’ Even though they were a little hesitant at the beginning, I reminded them ‘you’ve already shared all your stories with me. I’ve seen that all of you guys have had these experiences,’” said Andrews.
Junior Trinity Hillsman enjoyed the book and event because the content of both related to her life.
“Not everybody can be on your side, you have to defend yourself. That made me feel like I’m pretty much Justyce because some of the things he’s going through I go through as well,” said Hillsman.
After attending the event students were able to see where Stone got her inspiration from.
“I can see her in the story. She probably went through some of the things he went through, trying to figure out life,” said Hillsman.
Dear Martin is Stone’s first published book, and she already has plans for others. She hints that there will be a sequel to Dear Martin.
“I’ve got a book coming out next October that I’m really excited about. I just sold two more books so there will be one out in 2019 and also one in 2020. The one in 2020 will be kind of familiar is what I’m allowed to say, some of the characters will be some of the characters you’ve met before,” said Stone.
Stone can be found on social media as @getnicced. She posts about her family life, personal interests, and lots revolving around her career and Dear Martin.