It’s so easy to take peace for granted, when we have it.
In my 2012 book, The Great Game: Berlin-Warsaw Express and Other Stories, the character Cal, an American writer living in Berlin, commits the sin of lamenting peace as dull. Boarding the train for Warsaw at Zoo station, looking out his window as the Reichstag and Brandenburg Gate slip by, he reflects on how “concrete, barbed wire and gun turrets had been replaced by a currywurst stand, shoe stores, and other unremarkable trappings of the everyday. Everything looked so normal, as if people had never argued let alone fought here. The graveyard of communism and fascism looked beautiful with its flowers and its river in the sunshine.”
But Cal – named for his safe, privileged, native California – was frustrated. “The banality of today’s prosperity be damned,” he thought. “‘Orson Welles was right about the cuckoo clocks.’ On this day, Cal was not interested in sunshine, flowers and rivers. He wanted shadows, smoke and bastards. He wanted danger.”
Dave Eggers’s bestselling tech dystopia, The Circle (2013), has finally received a sequel. While The Circle described the rise of a fictitious tech and social media company and its protagonist’s steady descent into the maelstrom of surveillance culture, The Every now picks up a couple of years later, after the Circle has acquired a big online retailer “named after a South American jungle.” The resulting mega corporation, called the Every, is pretty much the monopolist in all things digital tech – from apps to online shopping to cutting edge hardware. Of course, it’s every bit as scary and unlikeable as one would imagine it to be.
It’s been nearly 52 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Without a doubt, he continues to inspire new generations and serve as a role model for non-violent protest and change. In honor of Black History Month in February, I’d like to review a young adult novel that brings the conversation on racism and growing up Black in the United States to a new level. It investigates whether King’s teachings are still relevant today and whether they can help Jystice, a 17-year-old, promising high school student. His life is turned upside down when he tries to help his intoxicated ex-girlfriend get home safely one night. In a confrontation with two police officers, Jystice ends up on the ground in handcuffs – an all-too-familiar sight. The problem: She’s White and he’s Black. As a result of the assault, Jystice will never be the person he once was.
Nic Stone’s debut novel, Dear Martin (2017), interweaves the topics of racial profiling, police brutality, blackface, colorblind racism, micro-aggressions, and acting ‘White’ with questions of identity, friendship, and interracial relationships. With that list, you might just ask yourself how the author still manages to tell a good story without getting too distracted and preachy. Well, she does. But before exploring the topic further, I’ll let Nic Stone introduce the book in her own words.