how it went down

How It Went Down
Author: Kekla Magoon
Published: October 21, 2014 by Henry Holt and Co.

Goodreads Summary: When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq’s death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq’s friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

Ricki’s Review: In light of the recent protests, this is an incredibly insightful book that is very important. The point-of-view shifts every 2-3 pages, which was very thought-provoking. Too often, books depict stereotypical portrayals of members of cultures, and the gamut of characters within this text felt very realistic. For some, this book may be too gritty and too uncomfortable. There is nothing comfortable about discussions regarding inequities and privilege in society. But if you walk down the halls of my high school, there is nothing in the book that is not a concern in schools. This is not a feel-good read, but it made me think. And thinking…is a very good thing.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: There is much to discuss in this book. Teachers could use it to start conversations about power and privilege. There are a lot of discrepancies between the characters’ perceptions of the shootings, and I imagine students would disagree about what happened. Teachers might elect to hold a verbal or silent debate. Also, I would love to discuss the structure of the text. The creativity in the form is purposeful, and it would be interesting for students to investigate why Magoon structured it in the way she did.

Discussion Questions: Why does Magoon structure the novel with alternating voices? How is the novel structured as a whole?; Does this story serve as a counter-narrative? If so, how? If not, why not?; Did Tariq have a gun in his hand? Why do/don’t you think so?; How does the story evolve as time passes?

We Flagged: “As a black man, you have to keep your head down. You have to keep yourself steady. You have to follow every rule that’s ever been written, plus a few that have always remained unspoken.”

Read This If You Loved: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, On the Run by Alice Goffman, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, Monster by Walter Dean Myers, The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees, Autobiography of my Dead Brother by Walter Dean Myers

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