All American Boys
Written by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
In this Coretta Scott King Honor Award–winning novel, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.
A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?
There were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.
Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this four-starred reviews tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken from the headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.
Primary Source Pairing:
“There’s this dude named Aaron Douglas. Scratch that. There was this dude named Aaron Douglas. A painter in the time of the Harlem Renaissance…Let me describe what his work looks like. Imagine The Lion King. But all the lions are people. Black people. So Simba and Mufasa, are, let’s say, a black king and prince. Now, imagine you are looking at them through the thickest fog ever. So think that you can’t make out any actual feature on their bodies, but you can still see their silhouettes…I knew the kind of art I wanted to start making.” Rashad, pages 141, 143-144.
Aaron Douglas’ art inspired Rashad. For this primary source pairing, invite students to analyze Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery Through Reconstruction created by Aaron Douglas in 1934. Visit NYPL’s website to learn more about the four panels that are included in Douglas’ work.
Questions for Discussion:
- Describe what you see.
- What do you notice first?
- What people and objects are shown?
- How are they arranged?
- What is the physical setting?
- What’s happening in the image?
- What tools were used to create this?
- Why do you think Rashad liked the art of Aaron Douglas so much?
- How does Aaron Douglas’ artwork connect to Rashad’s story in All American Boys?
Book Cover and Summary: Follett
Aaron Douglas Aspects of Negro Life: Exhibitions NYPL
All American Boys Study Guide, created by Simon and Schuster
Black Lives Matter