In this episode of #VelshiBannedBookClub, Ali Velshi talks with Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, co-authors of the commonly banned All American Boys, which unflinchingly explores White privilege and police brutality through two teenage boys, one Black, one White.
The idea for All American Boys on the day George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Reynolds and Kiely were sharing a hotel room. Reynolds shared that his mom was concerned about him, her Black son, traveling the country on a book tour. Kiely, who was also on tour but White, realized no one was worrying about him — because there was no reason to.
So, Kiely listened to Reynolds. “It is desperately important for me as a White man to spend my time listening to Black families telling me about the reality of the experience every day,” says Kiely.
The pair’s YA novel begins with an instance of captured-on-video police brutality and follows its impact the Black victim, his White classmate, who was being raised by the offending police officer, and their school and community.
The idea: Help readers understand that no matter how close or far you are from racial injustice, you should care about it.
“There were a few things that Brendan and I wanted to be very clear about when we started to make this book,” says Reynolds, “We wanted to drive home the point that you don’t need to actually know a person to care about their well-being. It shouldn’t matter that you don’t live in Ferguson, Missouri, for you to care about what happened to Michael Brown.”
“It shouldn’t matter that it will never actually touch your doorstep for you to be concerned about the welfare of your brothers and sisters of color out here in this world. It’s that simple.”
Listen to the interview below:
Velshi, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely on All American Boys:
Velshi on banned books on MSNBC:
MORE ON BANNED BOOKS FROM THE CITIZEN