Book Review- Voices From the March on Washington (by J. Patrick Lewis & George Ella Lyon)

I chose this book because I was looking for a quick read, and a poetry book sounded nice. I got this off the shelves of my school library.

This book is a collection of poems written by two people. The authors made up a few fictional characters to base these poems off of. These aren’t people’s real experiences, but they are very similar. You could definitely label this “historical fiction.” These poems are all about the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. For those of you who don’t know, the March on Washington is the march where Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream” speech by the Reflecting Pool in D.C. It is estimated that about 250,000 people came to this march. Because this is a poetry book, I chose a few poems to discuss.

#1: One of the poems is called “Turn.” This poem was about a Japanese woman who participated in the March. In the poem, she talks about how it is her march too, how her family was forced into the Japanese internment camps, and how it is everyone’s responsibility to correct this country, to set it right.

#2: Another one of my favorite poems from this book is called “Fountain.” It starts off with a little girl being thirsty during the March, and her father telling her where to get some water. At the March, there were “…little bitty fountains on the side of a water truck.” She looked over and saw people of color mixed in with White people. Her father told her to drink there, but she was confused and asked, “Where’s the [one] for us?” He father proudly replies that “they’re all for us…” and that this is why they are marching. The little girl feels afraid to stand behind an older, White girl, but enjoys saying, “My turn now.”

#1: The main character in this poem is a woman named Aki Kimura. Before the poem starts, there is a description box that says the following: Aki Kimura, 46. Printer. San Jose, California. Besides knowing this, from the actual poem, we know that she is Japanese and been to the internment camps. We know that she has a strong desire to right the wrongs of this country. I’d be honored to meet her because she seems very passionate about what she believes in.

#2: The main character in this poem is a young girl named Ruby May Hollingsworth. She is six years old and in first grade. We know from the poem that she is shy around strangers and is Black. We can infer that she is Black by the way she felt “kinda” scared around a White girl and how she was confused that she was to drink with White people. There is not much else we can conclude about her, but I think it’s great that her father took her to the March. It would be nice to meet her to see what the March was like through a child’s point of view.

Personally, I thought that though this book was touching, it isn’t the type of poetry I prefer to read. Don’t get me wrong, I love history and reading primary sources, (though these ones are fake,) but I like poetry that is a little harder to decipher. I like poetry that requires the reader to think from the author’s point of view and decode a poem to figure out its true meaning. I also like this type of poetry because I love to see the different ways that people interpret it. I feel that different interpretations reflect a person’s individuality. So to sum this up, I loved the meaning of these poems and the topics that these poems covered, but I didn’t like the style of poetry, I felt like it was lacking depth.

I have seen many films about the March on Washington. Although these characters were fictional, I feel like they were able to totally catch the depth of this movement. I can say that all of these poems in this book are like the different stories you hear in these documentaries. These poems are also about internal growth, which I like and which is different from documentaries that seem to be generally about the movement overall and seem to be less about personal growth.

#1: I think that the main idea of this poem is that you can be any race to support a cause. Because Aki is Japenese and was interned in WWII, I feel like she understands oppression. I think that the poem was trying to say that it was a movement for everyone’s rights, but I actually disagree. I feel like the March on Washington was  of, by and for Black people.

#2: I think the theme of this poem is the beginning of integration. This poem is truly beautiful and I love how it is a concrete poem (of a water fountain). I feel like this poem shows that for Black kids, in the beginning of integration, sharing with White people was a foreign concept. I really enjoyed reading this from a child’s point of view.

Questions Answered:

  • 1. Why did you choose this book?
  • 2. Explain the plot of the book, or if it is a non-fiction book, what topics are covered.
  • 3. Describe one of the characters in the book. Would you want to meet this character? Why or why not?
  • 4. What is your opinion of the book? Would you recommend it? Why or why not?
  • 5. Explain how this book is similar to another book, film, story, or article that you have read or seen. What connections or comparisons can you make?
  • 6. What do you think the main idea or theme of this story is? What is the author trying to tell you about life or our world with this book?

Thanks for reading!:)Please check out some of my other posts to get good reading suggestions. Feel free to comment below!

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