Where Fiction and Reality Collide: Books and Black Lives Matter

Below are six books for young readers that address police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement.

‘All American Boys,’ by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

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Jason Reynolds, left, and Brendan Kiely.

Credit
Tina Fineberg

Jason Reynolds still vividly recalls when his mother gave him “the talk” about how to behave around police officers. “That talk has saved my life many a time,” Mr. Reynolds said.

In 2014, after an officer shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Mr. Reynolds and the author Brendan Kiely decided to team up to write “All American Boys,” a young adult novel. In it, a quiet and artistic teenager is shopping for chips at a bodega when a police officer mistakes him for a shoplifter and assaults him.

Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Kiely assumed no one would publish the book, and planned to put it online for free if they couldn’t sell it.

“When Black Lives Matter started, it was polarizing,” Mr. Reynolds said. “Does any publishing company want to bring forth static around something so fresh?”

In fact, “All American Boys,” which came out in 2015, became a commercial hit, selling more than 120,000 copies.

‘Tyler Johnson Was Here,’ by Jay Coles

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Jay Coles

Jay Coles was 18 when he started writing his debut novel, “Tyler Johnson Was Here,” about a boy whose twin brother is a victim of police brutality. While the characters were fictional, Mr. Coles said he had been motivated to write the novel after Trayvon Martin, 17, was killed in Florida. “I put myself in a deep depression while writing it,” he said.

A few months ago, Mr. Coles, who grew up in Indianapolis and is now a senior in college, sold the book to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, which will…

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