Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely talk with Bank Street 7th Graders about “All American Boys”
On April 12, authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely talked with Bank Street School for Children 12/13s about All American Boys, which they co-wrote.
Each told a personal story about interacting with the police as a teenager. Reynolds was a passenger in a car which was pulled over by police for running a yellow light, which is not illegal. Police drew guns, forced him and his friends out of the car, emptied their backpacks and searched every part of the car. After finding nothing illegal in the car, the police said “you can go now” and left them to clean up the mess. All this happened in his own neighborhood.
“The barrel of a gun is tiny, until it’s in your face” said Reynolds.
Kiely’s story presented a stark contrast: He was driving 30 miles over the speed limit when a police car signaled him to stop. Panicking, he kept going until he found a parking lot, in which he stopped, taking the time to pull into a parking spot. When questioned by the police officer, Kiely “went into a sob story,” after which the police officer let him off with a warning.
“I broke the law twice: Speeding and reckless driving,” said Kiely. “The officer told me and my white friends, ‘Go home and be safe.'”
Bank Street students leaped at the chance to ask questions and have a conversation, asking why the book ended as it did and whether the two had any conflicts while writing the story.
“We decided early on there was never going to be some sort of kumbaya moment in the book,” said Reynolds. “That would not be honest.”
“It was a gift and a privilege for me, as a white person, to work on this book,” said Kiely. “I don’t take that lightly.”
All American Boys won Bank Street’s 2016 Mock Printz award and also received the inaugural Walter Dean Myers Award from We Need Diverse Books as well as a Coretta Scott King Honor.