Recently, our school had a March Madness with books, and there were brackets for Fantasy and Reality. This was a nationwide concept, and it was a fun idea to get students talking about books. One of the top books chosen by our students was All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. I finally picked up a copy, and wow, I was just blown away.
The topic is timely, and as I described this book to a colleague, I found myself saying this book is basically the YA fiction version of Ta-Nahisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. Rashad and Quinn are team members on the high school basketball team and both are good kids. However, one night, Rashad is beaten and arrested because a security guard racially profiles him. Quinn sees it happen. The book chronicles what happens to their families, school, and community in response.
I found myself deeply moved by the story and the writing. There’s one scene where the teacher just sits at her desk, stunned, and her students begin reading aloud and I just cried and cried at that point. Anyway, check out this book–a powerful YA read. As usual, here are a few favorite passages:
- “TEAM!” we all shouted, lying just to get the damn practice finished. Team. Maybe? Like the whole school is a tam, the whole city is a team? But we weren’t one just because we called ourselves one. We had to mean it to be it, and to be it maybe we had to talk about the tough shit out loud. Otherwise we’d just keep lying to each other all the time.”
- “I wanted him to know that I saw him, a guy who, even with a tear-streaked face, seemed to have two tiny smiles framing his eyes like parentheses, a guy on the ground pantomiming his death to remind the world he was alive.”
- “In 2012, in the United Kingdom, the number of people (regardless of race) shot and killed by police officers: 1 In 2013, in the United Kingdom, the number of times police officers fired guns in the line of duty/the number of people fatally shot: 3/0 In the United States, in the seven year period ending in 2012, a white police officer killed a black person nearly two times a week. “I’m not much of a talker,” she finished up. “You know that. But I know numbers. The numbers don’t lie, kids. The numbers always tell a story.”