August 31, 2016
How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon
How It Went Down
by Kekla Magoon
The store owner steps onto the sidewalk and calls for Tariq Johnson, who is hurrying away, to stop. Everyone who was out on the sidewalk is sure that they know what is going on. First is the man who sees another street punk whose surely just robbed the store and tries to stop him. But there were also members of the local gang, some of whom know he was armed while others are just as sure he wasn’t. him a young man who has robbed the store. Then there was the man driving through the neighborhood who sees Tariq tussling with the man who tried to stop him. This man steps out of his car and puts a stop to the nonsense once and for all with two quick shots from the gun he is licensed to carry.
Confused? That’s the point.
When street crime happens, it happens fast. People make snap decisions. Then they are left trying to unravel what happened.
The events that set it all in motion are fairly clear-cut. Tariq went to the store to buy groceries for his mother. He forgot to wait for the change. The store owner knows his mom and dashed out onto the sidewalk to try to catch Tariq and hand over the money. As he called out to Tariq the first assumption was made and things spiraled out of control.
But just what happened? Several characters swear he was armed. Others are equally certain that he wasn’t. Person by person, characters throughout the neighborhood tell their part of the story. We hear from Tariq’s best friend, the shooter, the store owner and even the girl who performed CPR. He is described as a good son, a good brother, an amazing friend, a street punk, a would-be gang member, and more. As the characters talk, they start to question “Did I know the real Tariq?”
While Magoon never comes out and says “Tariq was not a gangster” or “Tariq was a gangster,” I know what I think. That said, I’m sure another reader could come to a different conclusion. And I think that’s a lot of what makes this book essential. There’s just enough space for each reader to bring their own interpretation to the story.
This is definitely a book that deserves a place in the modern classroom. It is sure to spark discussions and, hopefully, more than a little thought. It is a book about today’s headlines, what we know, who we are and what we can be. It isn’t overly optimistic but it does end on a note of hope for Tariq’s friends and family if not his neighborhood. Add this book to your shelf today.