#CBR9 #37

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

I’m always on the lookout for diverse books, especially if they are culturally relevant. The Chancellor recommended me two books: Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down and Angie Thomas’s The Hate You Give. I’m currently reading the latter, so you’ll get to read my review later this weekend (I hope), but I just finished the former, and it was an interesting, engaging, thought-provoking book.

Tariq Johnson leaves a convenience store buying groceries, when the owner chases after him, shouting, “Come back!” A white man stops him to intervene, young black men rise up, and then, with the shout of “He’s got a gun!” another white man comes up and fatally shoots Tariq. This is all we know. The rest of the story is told in pieces from multiple perspectives: the owner, Tariq’s best friend Tyrell, Jennica, the young woman who gives him CPR, Brick, the unofficial gang leader who was trying to initiate Tariq and Tyrell, Tariq’s sister Tina who has special needs, and the Rev. Alistair Sloane who has a senatorial campaign at stake. The story is at turns frustrating and lyrical, evasive and honest. It shows the danger of a single story, as well as the way we frame a narrative to suit a particular need.

This was a solid 4-star book for me. It is well-written and engaging, a fast book to dive into, and one that critiques the media treatment of crimes committed against black teenagers. I think Magoon could have trimmed out a few voices in her narrative, and there just isn’t the same emotional connection you get from All American Boys, but it’s a worthy read, nonetheless.


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