All-American Boys book cover with photo of partial face of an African-American youth

by Marsha Rakestraw

Rashad’s stop at a local convenience store for a bag of chips turns into a nightmare when he is brutally beaten during an arrest for a crime he didn’t commit. Quinn witnesses the beating, perpetrated by a policeman who has been like a father to Quinn and whose younger brother is his best friend.

While Rashad lies in the hospital, recovering mentally and physically, and watching the tales and assumptions spin out of control on the news and in his community, Quinn struggles with whether to speak up about what he saw. After all, Officer Galluzzo must have had a reason, right? Quinn has known him all his life – and he’s a great guy.

Then there’s the added pressure that Quinn and his friends, and some of Rashad’s friends are all on the basketball team. Coach says to leave it at the gym door and focus on the game, but how do you do that when another black kid has been beaten by another white cop and people are taking sides? And although most of the kids are talking about it – almost none of the adults are … especially not in class.

When someone tags the sidewalk in front of the school with “Rashad is absent again today,” loyalties are tested, violence escalates, and those involved have to decide whether to step up and take action or to stand aside and look away.

“All-American Boys” (316 pgs, grades 8 and up), written by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, is an important book that highlights our escalating racial injustices and the need to explore and address issues such as racial profiling, social justice, police militarization and brutality, grave challenges for law enforcement officers, distorted media coverage, controversial issues in schools, and peaceful conflict resolution.