2021 Washtenaw Reads program: All-American Boys

The Washtenaw Reads program is a community initiative to promote reading and civic dialogue through the shared experience of reading and discussing a common book. Participating libraries include Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Northfield Township, Saline, and Ypsilanti.

2021 Washtenaw Reads

The 2021 Washtenaw Read has been selected: All American Boys, written in tandem by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Continue to check this website for more information about the Read and related events.

A bag of chips. That’s all 16-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?

But there are 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 powerful novel shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, ripped from the headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.

All American Boys Resources

Dive deeper in All American Boys and its authors, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Check out each author’s website, read articles on the book, view a list of activities and discussions based on All American Boys, or check out related titles for adults, teens, and kids. View resources for All American Boys here.

History of Washtenaw Reads

Launched in 2003 by the University of Michigan Life Sciences, Values and Society Program, the Reads project was fashioned after a civic reads program designed by the Seattle Public Library. The book chosen for the inaugural Reads was “Lincoln’s DNA,” by Phillip R. Reilly. The Ann Arbor District Library was a major partner in this effort along with other area organizations.

The following year, the Reads program became known as Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads and expanded to include Ypsilanti and was co-sponsored by the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti District Libraries and supported by interested civic groups, the University of Michigan School of LS&A, the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Public Schools, local bookstores, Eastern Michigan University Libraries and Washtenaw Community College.

In 2016, the program was renamed Washtenaw Reads and expanded to include the communities and libraries of Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Northfield Township and Saline.

Prior to 2014, each year’s read had a theme, which can be viewed on the Past Reads page. Previous themes have included such subjects as: civil rights, science, citizenship and evolution.

Book Selection

Books chosen for the Reads should meet the following criteria:

  • The writing should be engaging and thought-provoking.
  • The subjects discussed should be accessible to readers throughout the community, high-school age and above.
  • The length, price, and availability of the book should be suited to involvement by the general public.
  • The book should be by a living author.
  • Its treatment of issues should encourage readers to discuss the issues further with others, at home, work, reading clubs, and community events.
  • Ideally, the subject should lead to constructive dialogues across our diverse communities.

During the summer the Book Screening Committee made up of individuals selected as representative of various civic constituencies read many titles reflecting the year’s theme. In the fall, a panel of distinguished judges review the two titles suggested by the Screening Committee and made a final recommendation of the Reads book for the coming year.