Feud powers sales of US congressman's novels

Congressman John Lewis
Congressman John Lewis PHOTOS: REUTERS, TOP SHELF

Public war of words between John Lewis and President-elect Donald Trump fuels sales of the African-American's graphic- novel trilogy on civil rights

WASHINGTON • As the March trilogy rockets to the top of Amazon's bestseller list buoyed by a feud between its memoirist, African- American congressman John Lewis, and United States President-elect Donald Trump, Lewis is optimistic that more members of a new generation will now come to comprehend how so many sacrificed much for civil rights.

During a week bookended by Martin Luther King Day and the Women's March in Washington on Saturday, Lewis - the surviving member of the Big Six civil-rights leaders - tells The Washington Post via e-mail that the lessons of his graphic-novel trilogy remain as relevant as ever.

"It is my hope that readers understand we were committed to the philosophy and discipline of nonviolence," he says. "We were willing to suffer beatings, to be arrested, to go to jail for what we believed in."

He says he does not want to simply teach the rising generation. He wants to inspire them to speak out in an America where voting rights are still challenged.

"I'm hopeful," he says, "that young people can see another generation that acted in a peaceful, non-violent fashion and never gave up."

The congressman is gratified by the boost in book sales, but is focused on what work he needs to do going forward.

Congressman John Lewis’ graphic-novel trilogy March (Book 2), depicts civil rights events in the United States in the 1960s.  PHOTOS: REUTERS, TOP SHELF

He also spoke on Monday in Miami to a scholarship breakfast for the 5,000 Role Models of Excellence Project, telling the young members of his assembled audience that they were "more than lucky" to grow up in a nation moulded by King's sacrifices.

March, the graphic-novel trilogy co-authored by Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, depicts not only the Freedom Rides and Selma marches of the 1960s, including Bloody Sunday, but also Lewis' meetings and protests alongside King, including the 1963 March on Washington.

Lewis, 76, first met King while still a teenager who King's leadership hoped might help integrate Southern schools.

Last Friday, he told "Meet the Press" that he did not view Mr Trump as a "legitimate" president in the light of Russia's actions during the election.

Mr Trump responded with a series of tweets that characterised the civil-rights hero as a man of "all talk" and no action or results.

Lewis is one of more than 40 Democratic lawmakers who have vowed not to attend tomorrow's inauguration.

Amid the resulting feud, sales of Lewis' books spiked, with the March trilogy set (IDW) still at No. 1 on Amazon as of Tuesday morning, and all three books in the set among Amazon's top 50.

March: Book Three won the National Book Award last year - the first graphic novel to do so.

Powell, the March artist, says that public response to their work in the wake of the Trump feud left him "energised".

"We were shown a massive outpouring of support for what we're at risk of losing - history, context, principled discourse," he says. "I think a lot of people felt less alone in their indignation" as a result of Lewis' remarks.

"Benefiting materially from it all didn't sit well with me unless I could use that momentum in a positive, constructive way," he continues, "so I'm choosing to donate a big chunk of the weekend's royalties to organisations working for justice, equality, and peace."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2017, with the headline 'Feud powers sales of US congressman's novels'. Print Edition | Subscribe