By Samia Warsame
On Mar. 4th, Authors Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds visited the Stuart library to discuss their new book All American Boys, a novel that centered around two high-schoolers; Rashad Butler and Quinn Collins, who lives are forever changed by an act of police brutality.
The novel is written in alternate perspectives, ultimately weaving together in the moment in which the two boys can actually see each other—the first step for healing and understanding in a country that is still deeply ingrained with racial injustice. “I believe this event is important because we want students to get excited about reading something that is interesting to them.” Head Librarian Lisa Gunther explained “All American Boy’s covers a topic that is very relevant because it seems like every day there is something on the news about a teen of color harmed or even killed by the police.”
Co-authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely had written young-adult books separately for publisher Simon and Schuster when they were asked to go on a group tour of male authors. The two ended up sharing a room, and while they were on the road, news broke that George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin. “And so here I am on this tour.” Reynolds explained during the presentation “I’m angry, I’m frustrated and I have no one to talk to because I’m traveling and living with a stranger.” However, the conversation of the case eventually surfaced and it turned out that Kiely was as frustrated and as angry and as confused as Reynolds was. “[Kiely] gave me a safe space for me to discuss my feelings,” Reynolds recounts. “And in August 2014 when Michael Brown was killed by Officer Darren Wilson, Brendan actually came to me, and said ‘Look, man, I can’t take anymore. Like, we have to do something. Will you write this book with me?’ And, you know, who says no to that, you know?” The result is All American Boys, a story about police brutality that makes Rashad a rallying cry against systemic racism in law enforcement.
“This book emerged out of the space of trust and vulnerability,” Kiely explained. “And we wrote this book in order for readers to have discussions about police brutality within the classroom without feeling restrained.” And that is the real power of this novel. This isn’t the end of the conversation, it’s the beginning and All American Boys definitely succeeded in providing a jumping off point for a discussion that is long overdue in American society.
photo credit by: Samia Warsame