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How It Went Down

Cover: 'How It Went Down'

Staff Review: "How It Went Down" by Kekla Magoon


Tariq Johnson hurried down the sidewalk, hunched over a bit carrying stuff and wearing a hoodie. A shopkeeper calls after him, and a bystander steps in to stop him, thinking Tariq stole something from the corner store. Someone says, “He’s got a gun,” and the bystander steps back, arms raised. He doesn’t see a gun when two shots are fired and Tariq Johnson goes down, shot twice in the back. A car speeds off, and, with a few exceptions, everyone scatters. Tariq Johnson was black and, according to the police, unarmed. The shooter, who was driving by at the time, was white and fled the scene. He later claimed self-defense and was released by the police without charges, and tensions in the neighborhood run high as the shooting is discussed in homes, shops, and in the media. The story is told from the points-of-view of seventeen narrators, including witnesses to the event, Tariq’s family, others who knew Tariq (not all of whom liked him), and a minister-turned-politician. No two accounts align perfectly, and the tension of those ambiguities, whether potential errors of memory, misperceptions, or the product of biases provides a realistic tension that goes beyond the “facts” of the event. It’s thoughtful and thought-provoking and challenges readers to think beyond the headlines as it highlights the humanity of a person, family, and neighborhood as it processes yet another act of violence. The audiobook is also excellent. This book is recommended for fans of the television show The Wire or books by Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers.

Audience: teens | Genre: fiction, realistic

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