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Donald Trump’s diss sends John Lewis’ book sales soaring

Lewis’ ‘March’ just won the National Book Award, too

Let it be known that on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday of 2017, the best-selling book on Amazon was a graphic-style trilogy called March. In words and startling black-and-white images, it narrates the inspirational story of Congressman John Lewis and the heroic struggles against segregation in the 1950s and ’60s.

The No. 2 bestseller is an earlier Lewis memoir, Walking with the Wind. If that were not enough, No. 4 on the list is Book One of the March trilogy.

As I described in a recent review and commentary for The Undefeated, March won a National Book Award, the first such prize to go to a work in the “comic book” tradition.

I would like to think it was this award — or my review — that sent book sales soaring. Alas, it was the words of another best-selling author, a man who styles himself as “the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters.” That man, Donald Trump, will be inaugurated this week to succeed Barack Obama as president of the United States.

Lewis told Meet the Press that he would not be attending the inauguration. Given evidence that Russians hacked the American election process, Lewis refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the Trump presidency. This is tough stuff coming from the greatest living icon of the civil rights movement, payback against the bombastic bambino of the birther movement.

But if Trump is anything, he is iconoclastic. No icon can escape his Twitter wrath when he feels set upon. U.S. Sen. John McCain’s suffering in a Vietnamese prison camp is worthless. So, too, the fractured skull of Lewis, lying bloody on the streets of Selma, Alabama.

In a trilogy of tweets on Jan. 14, here’s what the president-elect had to offer:

  • Congressman John Lewis should spend more time fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to …
  • … mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about election results. All talk, talk, talk – no action or results. Sad!
  • Congressman John Lewis should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S. I can use all the help I can get!

Besides the trash talk against Lewis, Trump appears to lack the ability to refer to any place where African-Americans happen to live without resorting to phrases like “crime infested.” I wonder if he has ever visited District Five in Atlanta.

Over the holidays, my daughter Alison, who lives in Atlanta and has met the congressman, asked for the March trilogy as a Christmas present. I was happy to oblige. She reports to me that the Trump dissing of Lewis has fired up the progressive forces in Atlanta, which are legion. Outside the ATL, people continue to flock to his books and to stories of the power of nonviolent resistance. This is a good outcome.

Trump is a successful author too, of course. Out of curiosity, I just checked his Amazon numbers. The Art of the Deal comes in at a good ranking: No. 127 of all books sold. For the moment, Lewis and March remain at No.1.

Roy Peter Clark is senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists. He is the author of “Writing Tools” and many other books.