Sunday, January 17, 2016

It was everywhere and all mixed up in everything

I recently read All American Boys by co-authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. It's an amazing young adult novel about police brutality told from the perspectives of two high school students. One boy is Rashad, a young black student who is savagely beaten by a police officer. The other boy is Quinn, a young white student who sees the beating but initially acts like he didn't.

The story was so spot on to what we hear constantly in the news. The book beautifully and authentically portrays real-life encounters between young black men and police that end badly.

How did this story come about?

Co-authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely had separately published young-adult books for Simon and Schuster and were on a book tour together for the publisher. They ended up sharing hotel rooms on the tour. And while on the road, news came that George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin. The two men became friends over their conversations about race. Later, after the book tour, Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson. That became the urgency the authors needed to write a book about race and police brutality together.

My favorite parts:

"I don't think most people think they're racist. But every time something like this happens, you could, like you said, 'Not my problem.' You could say, 'It's a one-time thing.' Every time it happened."
"But here are the words that kept ricocheting around me all day: Nobody says the words anymore, but somehow the violence still remains. If I didn't want the violence to remain, I had to do a hell of a lot more than just say the right things and not say the wrong things."
"Because racism was alive and real as shit. It was everywhere and all mixed up in everything, and the only people who said it wasn't, and the only people who said, "Don't talk about it" were white."

I wish there were more teachers like Mrs. Tracey.
"Mrs. Tracey stood at the window, looking down over the front steps and the entrance to the school. Even when everyone had taken their seats, she remained by the window, and the rest of the class kept talking, waiting for her to go to her desk. But she didn't. In her hand, she held a copy of the novel The Invisible Man."

Read this book with the young people you know. Begin a much needed conversation. Kids are ready to talk.

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