I saw a tweet last week that read something like this: “What if you look like the people others are afraid of?”
The context was the Syrian refugees, I’m sure. The terrors in Paris blasted the news. So many dead. So many injured.
So many with no place to go.
My heart hurt, and I am not sure about the timing, but I’m quite sure God told me to read the book All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, the story of two American teens who attend the same high school: one white, one black. Both with families who love them. Both caught in a situation that represents many we’ve heard over and over again: “the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.”
For the past couple of weeks my students and I have read some of the writing of Leonard Pitts, Jr. We read his work to learn to become better writers. Among others, we read “We need a better plan to probe police shootings,” and “We don’t want to watch police — but we have to.” We talked about Pitt’s message, and we analyzed his craft.
We questioned what we know has happened way too often, and we shared ideas and opinions about how the actions of some affect the lives of many.
We sat in a circle: Black and White and Chin and Mexican. We talked. And listened. We tried to understand.
All American Boys is a story for every classroom library. It’s a story for every classroom teacher. Every administrator. Every parent. Every police officer.
We must invite candid stories and candid conversations about race into our learning environments. How else will we ever learn to see past color into hearts and minds and hope?
Booklist Starred Review states: “. . .this hard-edged, ripped-from-the-headlines book is more than a problem novel; it’s a carefully plotted, psychologically acute, character-driven work of fiction that dramatizes an all-too-frequent occurrence. Police brutality and race relations in America are issues that demand debate and discussion, which this superb book powerfully enables.”
If you add one book to your reading list this fall, I hope it is All American Boys. It ranks right up there with Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock for books that will stay with me forever.
I need about 10 copies for my classroom library.
Tagged: books, Classroom Library
[…] up The Boy in the Black Suit last year at ALAN, and this year I scored All-American Boys after Amy’s recommendation. In Black Suit, the main character wears a black suit every day for his job at a funeral home, […]
My library just ordered this…talk about good timing! Can’t wait to check it out.
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I finished reading this while on the way to NCTE and ALAN, and then saw this in the news this morning and can’t help but be aware of just how timely All American Boys is. Jason Reynolds’ writing blows me away every time. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/11/24/chicago-police-officer-charged-with-murder-for-shooting-black-teenager/?postshare=4161448382066368&tid=ss_tw)
I just finished this book last week and have not stopped thinking about it. I have actually bought two additional copies to pass on to colleagues. Jason Reynolds has become one of those authors that I will read whatever he writes. “The Boy in the Black Suit” is another very powerful book that deals with a young man grieving over his mother’s death.
I love it when I find books that linger awhile after I finish the last page. I like Matthew Quick’s work for the same reason. Like you, I will read Jason Reynold’s other work, too. Thanks for the comment.