ANN ARBOR – The Washtenaw Reads program is an initiative by local public libraries to encourage reading and civic dialogue.
Launched by the University of Michigan Life Sciences, Values and Society Program in 2003, the project aims to promote a shared experience and community discussion across a variety of topics.
One book is selected each year and participating libraries include Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, Salem-South Lyon, Saline and Ypsilanti.
This year’s Washtenaw Read is “All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. A timely choice in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, the book centers around an event in which teenager Rashad is profiled by a white cop, Paul Galluzzo, who begins to brutally punch the boy after mistaking him for a shoplifter. As the violence unfolds, Rashad’s friend Quinn Collins -- who was raised by the cop after his own father was killed in Afghanistan -- looks on in disbelief.
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The event was also filmed, and as the beating makes its way across news networks, the officer faces accusations of police brutality and prejudice. The boys, who are on the same basketball team, find themselves at odds along with their teammates, the school and the town as the teens experience a cruel reality they had never considered before.
The award-winning authors wrote “All American Boys” in tandem and demonstrate the complexity of alternating perspectives resulting from a single violent moment.
For more information about the book, to see the authors’ websites and to discover related titles for people of all ages, click here.
According to the Ann Arbor District Library’s website, Washtenaw Reads books 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.