All American Boys: A Novel by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely is an excellent conversation starter. The novel explores issues of justice, familial ties, prejudice, and loyalty in revealing how racism is experienced through police brutality today. The chapters that alternate between the voices of a Black and a white young man offer a painfully honest portrayal of how these young adults are forced to cope with racism individually, and collectively.
On his way to a party, Rashad, a young Black man, is falsely accused of stealing a bag of chips by a police officer who later severely assaults him. The incident divides both his school and neighborhood community amidst the growing national tension surrounding police brutality. Rashad finds himself under the spotlight of a conversation about racism especially after a video of the assault goes viral. Coping with the pain of being violated and this unwanted attention, he finds strength in making art.
Quinn is thrust into an uncomfortable position when he sees Rashad being assaulted by a police officer he later recognizes as the older brother of one of his best friends. While he would rather remain silent about the incident, he is forced to become vocal as he comes to terms with the racism all around him.
All American Boys forces us to look deep within ourselves and grapple with how we are all implicated in issues of racism in different ways. Some of us may need to stay strong in the face of being constantly victimized by society, while some of us may need to step up and speak up against injustice. This book is perfect for those who find themselves dealing with the discomfort of experiencing or witnessing racism as well as those who are seeking the inspiration to be in the movement to end it.
By: Gregory Stewart
Brendan, Kiely & Reynolds, Jason. All American Boys: A Novel. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 2015. Print.