I read Dreamer by Charles Johnson in college and it has stuck with me ever since. It’s earned a permanent space on my bookshelf, where real estate is precious. If we’re lucky, we learn a lot about the history of Martin Luther King Jr. but it’s hard to imagine the pressure he was under. You hear a bit of it in that last speech–the sense of impeding doom. But this book takes a different–fictional– look at the last days of one this country’s greatest leaders. I don’t want to give too much away, but here’s a passage from the Amazon description that got me thinking about the book I’m currently reading:
“While in Chicago for his first northern campaign against poverty and inequality, King encounters Chaym Smith, whose startling physical resemblance to King wins him the job of official stand-in. Matthew Bishop, a civil rights worker and loyal follower of King, is given the task of training the smart and deeply cynical Smith for the job. In doing so, Bishop must face the issue of what makes one man great while another man can only stand in for greatness. “
At the moment, I’m reading The Other Wes Moore by none other than Wes Moore. It’s the story of two men with the same name. One ends up in jail while the other becomes a distinguished military officer and writer (who spoke at the DNC in 2008). There are plenty of parallels to be drawn between the two books. How do two men with so much–and yet so little–in common, end up in such entirely different places?
If you’re looking for beautiful prose, the Johnson book is for you. If you’re hoping to peek behind the curtain of reality, the Moore book should be on your list. But I suggest reading both.
And for good measure: