Antwan Worthy struggles with reading aloud and does not understand why Miss Palmer makes her students do it in front of the whole class. His father helps him understand the importance of reading and gives Antwan some tips he learned when he was in school. Antwan is just one of the title's twelve brown boys, whose stories come from a broad range of backgrounds and a wide geographical span. These stories strive to show the depth of the African American experience, from Jamaica, to Santa Monica, to Northeastern cities, and from those in broken urban homes to those raised in private schools by successful parents. Each boy struggles with a problem that will be familiar to many readers. Alfred learns about the African people and culture and finds a way to use his strong leadership skills. Jamal lives in an area with almost no other Black children, but reconciles his heroes and ideas of racism with his group of white friends. William lets his intelligence and clever ideas shine, even though it costs him a friendship that turns to jealousy.