All American Boys
Authors: Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Published: September 29, 2015 byAtheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
GoodReads Summary: Rashad is absent again today.
That’s the sidewalk graffiti that started it all…
Well, no, actually, a lady tripping over Rashad at the store, making him drop a bag of chips, was what started it all. Because it didn’t matter what Rashad said next—that it was an accident, that he wasn’t stealing—the cop just kept pounding him. Over and over, pummeling him into the pavement. So then Rashad, an ROTC kid with mad art skills, was absent again…and again…stuck in a hospital room. Why? Because it looked like he was stealing. And he was a black kid in baggy clothes. So he must have been stealing.
And that’s how it started.
And that’s what Quinn, a white kid, saw. He saw his best friend’s older brother beating the daylights out of a classmate. At first Quinn doesn’t tell a soul…He’s not even sure he understands it. And does it matter? The whole thing was caught on camera, anyway. But when the school—and nation—start to divide on what happens, blame spreads like wildfire fed by ugly words like “racism” and “police brutality.” Quinn realizes he’sgot to understand it, because, bystander or not, he’s a part of history. He just has to figure out what side of history that will be.
Rashad and Quinn—one black, one white, both American—face the unspeakable truth that racism and prejudice didn’t die after the civil rights movement. There’s a future at stake, a future where no one else will have to be absent because of police brutality. They just have to risk everything to change the world.
Cuz that’s how it can end.
Ricki’s Review: I read this book a few months ago, and frankly, I can’t stop thinking about how important this story is. We read so many books in our lifetimes, and some just take our breath away. This is one of those books. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I believe it belongs in every classroom. The strength of the two voices in this book is remarkable, and it makes for an excellent teaching tool—about heroism; about doing what is right and true; and about being a good, decent human being. The acts within this book are all-to-common, and I believe this book promotes genuine change. The book is literary at the same time that it is engaging. It will pull (and has pulled) readers of all ages and backgrounds. I typically don’t review books long after they have been published, but this book feels too important to leave out. If you haven’t read it already, I recommend it move to the top of your TBR list. It’s and incredible story.
Kellee’s Review: I too read this book a few months ago. It was a choice for our Faculty Book Club, and it was a perfect book to discuss with a bunch of educators. All American Boys is a book that is going to be a classic because it highlights modern history in a thoughtful and truthful way. This is a book that I would recommend to everyone to read. It is a perfect jumping off point to discuss race relations, Black Lives Matter, and We Need Diverse Books. The way the book is set up, with two voices, will help readers have permission to talk about what is happening in our country, the Civil Rights movement and its tie into modern times, and the racial tension currently happening in our country.
I’d like to also add that I recently was lucky enough to see Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely accept their Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award at the ALA Annual Conference here in Orlando, and they both moved me to tears. Jason actually gave two speeches since he won an honor for All American Boys and Boy in the Black Suit. His second speech was a brilliant advocacy poem titled Machetes which can be viewed here or read here. His first speech and Brendan’s speech are not available yet. Brendan says School Library Journal will be publishing his, and I am not sure about Jason’s; however, I did tweet some quotes as I sat and listened:
- I hope The Boy in the Black Suit gives young men permission to feel and be human and sometimes need a hug. – Jason Reynolds
- Memory in of itself is life. -Jason Reynolds
- If you are doing this work, this award is yours too. -Jason Reynolds
- Jason Reynolds talking about his mama made me cry. I hope my son’s love can be as true as his is.
- There are bodies missing, and I cannot bring them back. It is time for action. -Brendan Kiely
- Revolution begins in the heart. -Brendan Kiely
- Love is art. Love is education. Love is accountability. And it needs repeating love is love is love is love. -Brendan Kiely
- I want to reckon w whiteness…speak truth to myself. -Brendan Kiely
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book begs to be taught in classrooms. If I was still teaching it would be the first book that I would request to be added to curriculum. I think it would be particularly fascinating to use this book as a read-aloud while simultaneously doing literature circles with X by Ilyassah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon, The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon, and How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon. These books all deal with civil rights issues, as well, and it would be interesting to look at civil rights across time and history and also within other relevant contexts.
The Simon & Schuster Reading Group Guide gives some discussion questions, journal responses, and research ideas.
Discussion Questions: How do Rashad’s and Quinn’s voices shine differently in the text?; Did Quinn do the right thing? Would you have done the same?; What would you have done if you had been in Rashad’s circumstance? Would you have done anything differently?; How is racism present both in obvious and nuanced ways in the plot events of this text?
Flagged Passage: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Read This If You Loved: X by Ilyassah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon; The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon; How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon; Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles; Audacity by Melanie Crowder; The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
6 thoughts on “All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely”
Yes! This book should be essential reading in classrooms everywhere. The reader can’t help but feel the conflicting emotions, the real struggle to deal with a situation that had to be drawn from the true drama that is racial tension in America.
Thanks, Phyllis. Kellee and I planned this post a month ago, and it makes us sad how relevant the post is to the news today and yesterday.
Such sad timing though I hope this book can make a difference.
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