Allen, Autumn

All You Have To Do

(2) YA With lyrics by Kahil AkNahlej Allen. Alternating first-person accounts tell the intrinsically linked stories of Gibran in 1995 and his uncle Kevin in 1968. When Gibran, one of the few Black students in his Massachusetts prep school, and his friends ask to participate in a Day of Absence in support of the Million Man March, they are denied due to the event's "divisive" nature. Gibran leads the charge to respond in a manner that will get the entire school's attention--and may jeopardize his future. In the parallel story line, Kevin is a Black activist attending Columbia University, keenly aware of the university's unjust practices and their effect on neighboring Harlem. Columbia's response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. adds to a growing list of concerns, and plans for a protest escalate into a (real-life) student takeover. Allen has created two fully developed, sympathetic characters who must decide what liberation truly means. Kevin and Gibran share a commitment to activism, to the sometime detriment of their closest relationships. Both voices are clear in their convictions; flashbacks within Kevin's chapters and "What I don't say" sections within Gibran's deepen understanding.­ Allen's debut novel admirably explores various facets of African American activism and protest, including debates about what is deemed too radical for the movement, and discussion of the role of Black women. Lyrics "by" Gibran appear occasionally, along with some black-and-white illustrations by Salaam Muhammad (unseen); a list of acronyms and organizations and an author's note are appended.


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