This week we are welcoming back guest contributor Bryant R. for this double feature book review of Across That Bridge and Carry On by John Lewis!
I didn’t know what to expect when I first downloaded John Lewis’s audiobook, Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America. I had read his graphic memoir series March, so I felt like I knew a decent amount about the late congressman. But I also knew that March wasn’t his whole story. Listening to Across That Bridge gave me that complete story. The narration, provided by one of my all-time favorite [voice] actors Keith David, crafted the memoir into a performance in which Lewis’s life and importance were highlighted with a historic context.
I don’t really remember ever learning about Congressman John Lewis in school, despite his serving 17 years as a state representative of Georgia and despite him being one of the “big six” U.S. civil rights leaders that organized the 1963 March on Washington. Perhaps his name came up in a U.S. History class session about the Freedom Riders, or perhaps he was mentioned as one of the leaders attacked on Bloody Sunday, an incident resulting from the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march across Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Or maybe those are just bits of information I’ve retained from March or media coverage of John Lewis’s death. I’m still not sure, but I know that the book was an eye-opener for me. Not because of the historical events mentioned, but because I was given context to the ideology and philosophies of non-violence that led people like John Lewis and his friend and idol Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s one thing to learn in school that these non-violent black men stood up against and endured threats, physical attacks, and dozens of arrests, but to understand why and how was powerful. There’s a philosophy behind non-violent protests, that much I learned when I first read MLK in American philosophy in college. But it’s not something that just happened as a reaction to the oppression they faced. It’s something that they had to learn and practice and train and teach each other. This book reveals the discipline that so many black men and women had to have during the height of the civil rights era, and it does so in such an awe-inspiring way that I couldn’t help but feel proud and galvanized.
I’ve read (or rather, listened to) a few other audiobooks since finishing Across That Bridge, one of those being Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation. Carry On is less of an autobiographical account of Lewis’s life and historical events and more of a conversational reflection of Lewis’s thoughts and feelings before he passed. It’s narrated by Don Cheadle, and the book’s chapters are organized by topics ranging from justice, courage, faith, mentorship, and forgiveness, the protests, the pandemic, and many more.
Listening to these titles back-to-back was especially encouraging because of Lewis’s hope and faith in the future of American generations. Even in his last moments, with the country in crisis and civil unrest, Lewis maintains the belief that America can live up to the ideals we claim, and he does so with such an unshakeable passion that his words moved me to feel an urge of positive resistance. John Lewis believed in getting in “good trouble” and after being arrested and placed in handcuffs over 40 times, he was living proof that sometimes a little good trouble is needed to change the world.
I am profoundly grateful for John Lewis and naturally I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read from him
I recommend these titles to anyone interested in learning a bit more about American history, specifically black history, and the civil rights movement. I also believe that anyone involved in protest today or stirred by a civil cause to change for the better would enjoy this book and find something of value to take from it. So, I’d like to end this with a quote from former president Barack Obama delivered in Congressman John Lewis’ eulogy: “He, as much as anyone in our history, brought this country a little bit closer to our highest ideals.”
Bryant R., a longtime supporter of Slanted Spines, is a man of many skills–a writer, producer, designer, musician, and well-informed comics enthusiast. In college, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English while participating in many student organizations, such as UNICEF and Invisible Children. After his collegiate studies, he worked for several years as a manager at a local restaurant, where he eventually served as General Manager. This year, he made a career shift and now works as a Technology Manager in the Apple department of a campus Barnes & Noble. In his free time, he improves Brittany’s life exponentially through his unconditional encouragement and quintessential amazingness. He enjoys memoir and biography in audiobook format.
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