DeRay's violent arrest hit me on a personal level. I'd heard him speak eloquently at his alma mater, Bowdoin College, and no one is working harder than he is to find a non-violent, political solution to the problem of police brutality. My husband teaches politics at Bowdoin and is friends with DeRay. We were appalled by his arrest. After making a donation for the protestors' bail and legal services, I retreated to the comfort of a good book.
|Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson being arrested in Baton Rouge. Photo by Max Becherer 7/9/16|
All American Boys tackles police brutality and racism with a gritty realism that will resonate with both teens and adults. This empowering story is narrated in alternating voices: Rashad, the black victim, and Quinn, his white classmate who witnesses the beating and runs away. The coauthors, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, mirror the ethnicity of their protagonists.
|Author Jason Reynolds|
|Author Brendan Kiely|
All American Boys is anti-brutality but not anti-police. All the characters have strengths and weaknesses; they are realistically human. Although the protagonists are boys, many of the strongest characters are girls and women. The story is emotionally challenging but easy to follow. After an explosive start, the pace slows in the middle as momentum builds to the climax. The heart-wrenching ending left me in tears but not without hope. I'd strongly recommend All American Boys to everyone, whatever your age, ethnicity or gender. This powerful book should be required reading in American high schools and at police academies. It would make for an excellent book group discussion too.
|The iconic image of the Baton Rouge Protest Against Police Brutality by Jonathan Bachman for Reuters July 2016|
By the time I'd finished reading All American Boys, our friend DeRay had been released on bond and is now back at his advocacy work. Follow this link to his Campaign Zero for an interactive tool that allows you to track the progress of police violence legislation on the local, state and national levels. Change isn't going to happen unless we hold legislators accountable and push for progress.
Reviewer's Disclosure: I bought this book in 2015 and lost it in my to-be-read stack. Thanks to a nudge from YA author I.W. Gregorio of We Need Diverse Books, I remembered to read it now. Another book we both recommend is Ta-Nehisi Coates's memoir, Between the World and Me. I write and review YA fiction, but my academic degrees are in Political Science. Author photos are from twitter.