How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

magoon_howwentdownMagoon, Kekla. How It Went Down. New York: Henry Holt, 2014. Print.

Genre: YA (Rashomon)

Summary: The tragic shooting of a young black man rips apart an inner city neighborhood. The white man responsible for the killing walks free. Sound familiar? Sadly, this tragic scenario expends gallons of newspaper ink and hours of news coverage across the country as it plays out again and again in real life. Magoon captures the pain and confusion behind the headlines. No wonder this book received honors from the Coretta Scott King Book Awards!

Critique: Magoon is a careful, thoughtful storyteller, unwrapping each layer of the event. The “facts” replay and evolve as readers view the tragedy through the eyes of a different witness or participant. Over the course of subsequent re-tellings, a Rashomon effect causes every version to slightly or significantly contradict all other versions. Details abound, and yet, all they do is muddy the already rippled waters.

Truth turns slippery and smokey the more readers and characters try to understand why Tariq Johnson was shot. The shooter insists his actions were defensive, even heroic, removing yet another violent gang member from the streets. But other witnesses swear that Tariq had zero involvement with gangs. That he was holding a candy bar, not a gun. Motives and emotions obliterate memories and gradually erode the narrative until all that’s left is intense grief and fear.

Most frightening of all is how the human mind often has no inkling its memories and perceptions have been warped over time. Truth wears countless, tricky masks.

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