Introduction & Reflection
Greetings. We are Jennifer, Jade, Alex, and Chuck. We are similar in some interesting ways. We like cats. We are students at Portland State University. We have a passion for education and we think there are some problems with the current ways of doing things that need to be addressed. Just as important as our similarities are our differences, however. Some of us have privilege simply because we exist and some of us earned our privilege. Some of us have been bullied or oppressed and some of us have been bullies or oppressors.
The framework that follows is the culmination of a journey we took together. Using the book All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds, a tale of how two boys with different lives and life experiences respond to violent action by the police in their town, we explored our collective similarities and differences in the context of the issues of race and injustice that the book raises. What we learned from this experience, more than anything else, is that our differences as individuals make us stronger as a group. When we started this journey we had a goal of doing our part to make the world just a little bit better. This framework is one of our ways of doing just that. We present it here, to you, as both a guide for your group’s own exploration of what makes you, you, and as a challenge. What will be your group’s call to action? How will you make the world a better place?
Before you begin reading, however, we recommend you make agreements among yourselves. Promises you make each other about how you will behave in your group. We have included ours below, but we encourage you to make your own and above all, to adhere to them. The change all of us are trying to make in the world is a group effort first and foremost, so for that to happen, the group has to work.
All American Boys is a little unique in that instead of chapters it is broken up into days, Friday to the following Friday. Each day contains the perspective of both of the main characters, Rashad and Quinn. We encourage you to have a separate meeting for each of the days. Begin with a reaffirmation of your agreements and a discussion of what happened in the book, before moving into a discussion of the issues that the book addresses. To that end, we have provided discussion questions; questions designed to encourage you to not only look at the issues but to also look at yourselves and where you fit into these issues. But please, do not limit yourselves only to our ideas. This is your exploration and the knowledge you come by and the actions you take will be uniquely yours.
With that, we humbly present our framework to you for your perusal and exploration. Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.
Jennifer, Jade, Alex, and Chuck.
Basic Book Club Logistics
Creating Book Club Agreements
Before you start the book, we encourage you to verbalize some agreements within your group to have a common understanding of what is ahead. We have based our agreements on the anti-bias framework linked below. Here are ours and we want you to create your own:
We decided upon honest conversations and vulnerability. We want to be forthcoming; if we offend one another on accident, we want it to be known that was not any of our intentions and to immediately let us know so a conversation can be born. We also wanted to take the time we need to speak so thoughtful and meaningful conversations are created. We want to honor confidentiality. We want to give voice to existing unspoken questions, as well as staying engaged with each other.
Opening Each Book Club Meeting
As mentioned in the introduction, our meetings began with a reaffirmation of the agreements we made in the first meeting and a brief discussion on the Day we had just read in the book in order to make sure everyone was on the same page in terms of their understanding the of the book’s material.
During Each Book Club Meeting
The majority of the meeting, the main entree if you will, was consumed with discussions of the issues that the book raised, how they related to the world at large and to us, and what we could do about them. To that end, we have developed discussion questions for your group to use to facilitate your discussions. The questions are based on the book’s material, as well as the Anti-Bias Framework, which we have linked below. We are also including post-reading discussions, to continue the discussion when you have finished the book.
Rashad (identity): How would you feel if your parents (or children) had a different view of your own race due to generational differences? Do generational differences have an effect on finding one’s own identity and how can we understand each others’ differences?
Quinn (Action): We seem to see videos and hear about/see young people of color in the media being assaulted by officers, but we do not hear about people in Quinn’s position. Would you have stepped up as a witness if you witnessed someone you knew engaging in a violent act such as Quinn did?
Rashad (identity): Rashad had never experienced anything like he did first hand until the night he was beaten by the officer and his brother and his father both have very different views of the law. How is Rashad supposed to cope with this kind of experience while his father keeps questioning him about his appearance and his brother keeps bashing officers and defending their “appearance” and identity to officers?
Quinn (action): Seeing a violent act such as Quinn had shook him up a lot asking himself many questions. After witnessing what he had, do you think it would’ve been beneficial for Quinn to reach out to Rashad? Would reaching out to Rashad and getting his side of the story eased Quinn’s mind about what he had witnessed?
Rashad (identity): Rashad saw himself on the news for the first time out of the many times that he would in the next few days. Do you think Rashad had a better sense of self-identity after seeing his face on the news with the incident that occurred? Or did it possibly confuse him more?
Quinn (action): Quinn went to the BBQ at the Galluzzo’s and was clearly uncomfortable the whole time because he was the only one who questioned Paul’s actions. Luckily, Jill was a good friend to him and was able to feel for him and be there for him. When Paul wanted to talk to Quinn, should Quinn have expressed his true thoughts and feelings to him? How difficult is it having opposing thoughts to the majority in a situation like this?
Rashad (Identity): Monday sees Rashad both contemplating an artist who was famous for drawing people with no faces and lying to the woman he meets in the gift shop about who he really is. What might these two incidents tell us about where Rashad’s head is at in terms of his own identity and how he fits into what happened? How does his starting a drawing of him at Jerry’s factor into Rashad’s struggle at this point? Where would your head be at at this point, where would you fit into this situation?
Quinn (Action): By Monday Quinn is displaying some inkling of empathy, but is still largely focused on how he fits into the events taking place. Considering that empathy is a prerequisite for action, does Quinn seem to be displaying the right balance of empathy and self-interest to be able to take a stand for others by this point? What about you? Do you have the empathy required to take the next step into action or is it a skill you need to work on?
Rashad (Identity): For Rashad, Tuesday seems to be about confronting multiple aspects of one’s identity. On the one hand, he sees himself portrayed in the media in very different lights depending on if they show him in his regular clothes or in his ROTC uniform. On the other hand, he also gets to experience the multiple aspects of another, when he sees a side of his mother he had never seen before.
Is there a way we can present the multiple aspects of our identity to the world in a positive and growth inspired way, rather than only presenting what we think is our “best” side? How can we work to better acknowledge within ourselves that everyone has multiple aspects to their identities and that the side we are seeing today might not be the “real” them?
Quinn (Action): On Tuesday, Quinn is struggling between what he feels is right and everyone he loves and respects telling him to keep his head down and tow the line. Is there a way for Quinn to be respectful, but still tell his best friend, Guzzo, that he wants to sit out by the graffiti with the rest of the school? How would you do it? How would you tell your friends and family that you want to stand up for what you believe in if it went against what they wanted?
Rashad (Identity): As Rashad learns that his father when working as a police officer shot and ultimately paralyzed a young black man who he believed was reaching for his weapon and turned out to be innocent. While this is a vulnerable act for his father, how can you come together in high emotional situations like this when there is another person who has different beliefs than you and still remain vulnerable and honest with each other.
Quinn (Action): In the days leading up to the protest, how do you believe Quinn is feeling? We know that Quinn has strong feelings about the racial injustice but what would you feel if you were in Quinn’s shoes? Imagine it occurring at your school and your town, and what all you want to do/what you know you should be doing/what feelings you are battling with.
Rashad (Identity): As Rashad was in the hospital for a while and we see that he leaves
behind his drawing for the nurse who he made a connection with and returns home to gain internet access back and sees that he is trending. Do you believe that there was some sense of comfort that Rashad had felt staying in the hospital? Is it more likely to feel comfort or discomfort due to being forced away from what is happening outside of hospital walls?
Quinn (Action): We see on Thursday as Quinn faces backlash and violence due to his participation in the protest, it’s evident that only fuels Quinn’s drive to protest more. Although I want you to really consider if that would encourage you to further protest if you went through what Quinn went through on Thursday or would you feel an urge to stay away from the protest and back away?
OVERALL QUESTIONS: POST READING
How is All American Boys a response to spread awareness to racial injustice? Does the book offer a solution to the problems found in the book?
Does this book affect students and readers positively while realizing the brutal truth of today’s current issues? If you negatively then how might you feel/do would help to fix it or change it?
Throughout All American Boys, Rashad and Quinn portray traits of the framework of identity and action. How do you feel Rashad embodies identity? And how do you feel Quinn embodies action?
The book leaves us feeling encouraged that the way of the current world can change in the aspect of racial injustice and that it’s closer than we believe at points. Do you feel as if this is true? If so, how can you be an active participant against racial injustice every day? We know that this battle is one day by day, please try to come up with ways you can fight racial injustice in your day to day life.
Resources for Book Club Hosts
If You Like All American Boys, You'll Love...
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
For Everyone by Jason Reynolds
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.