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This Is My America
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This Is My America
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"Incredible and searing." —Nic Stone, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dear MartinThe Hate U Give meets Just Mercy in this unflinching yet uplifting first novel that explores the racist...
"Incredible and searing." —Nic Stone, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dear MartinThe Hate U Give meets Just Mercy in this unflinching yet uplifting first novel that explores the racist...
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  • "Incredible and searing." Nic Stone, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin

    The Hate U Give meets Just Mercy in this unflinching yet uplifting first novel that explores the racist injustices in the American justice system.


    Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy's older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a "thug" on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town's racist history that still haunt the present?

    Fans of Nic Stone, Tiffany D. Jackson, and Jason Reynolds won't want to miss this provocative and gripping debut.
 

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Excerpts-

  • From the book Saturday, April 23

    Stephen Jones, Esq.

    Innocence X Headquarters

    1111 Justice Road

    Birmingham, Alabama 35005

    Re: Death Penalty—­Intake Department

    Dear Mr. Jones,

    My dad has precisely 275 days before his execution. You’re the only hope we have because every lawyer we’ve used has failed us. In the last appeal, Judge Williams didn’t take more than five minutes to consider.

    We mailed a renewed application since it’s now been seven years.

    Please look into James Beaumont’s application (#1756). We have all the court and trial files boxed up and ready to go.

    Thank you for your time,

    Tracy Beaumont

    P.S. Jamal’s going to college. Can you believe it? All that running added up to something. If you have those letters where I say he was wasting his time, please destroy them.

    P.S.S. Next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Jamal’s doing an interview on The Susan Touric Show. You should check it out.

    Ready. Set. Go.

    Time runs my life. A constant measuring of what’s gone and what’s to come. Jamal’s hundred-­meter dash is a blazing 10.06 seconds. That’s how my older brother got this monumental interview. I’m not thinking about Jamal’s record, though. I’m thinking about Daddy’s time. Seven years—­two thousand five hundred and thirty-­two days served, to be exact.

    This running clock above my head’s been in place since his conviction. That moment branded me. Mama gripped the courtroom bench to keep from collapsing as each juror repeated guilty. I looked to Mama for an explanation. The empty look in her eye cried out the answer: death.

    Since then, it’s tick-­tock.

    Here at the TV station, Jamal rocks steadily in the guest chair, watching highlights of his track career with the producer during a commercial break. He glides his hands over his fresh barber cut, his mind more likely on the camera angles that’ll best show his waves.

    We’re true opposites, despite our one-­year difference.

    He’s patient.

    Calm.

    Thinking.

    Living.

    Loving.

    He’s everything on the outside I wish to be. Bringing peo­ple in, when nine out of ten, I’d rather push them out. That’s why I hate that my mission crosses paths with the biggest day of Jamal’s life.

    Five minutes and thirty-­seven seconds until showtime.

    As the commercial nears its end, I don’t have to look up to know Mama’s leaving the makeup room. The click of her heels echoes past a crew of engineers and radiates as she circles around Jamal to the guest seating area on the side of the studio stage. She enters like only a proud Black mother can, hair all pressed and curled, with a sharp black skirt suit that fits her curvy figure.

    Mama’s been name-­dropping everywhere she can about the news anchor Susan Touric showcasing Jamal as a top athlete. I expected a live audience, but the set is a small studio and crew. I look out to Susan Touric’s interview desk with a backdrop image of Austin, the state capital. They’ve pulled out a white couch so there’s space for my family to join Jamal at the end.

    Mama smiles at Jamal, then at my little sister, Corinne, but I swear she throws some silent shade my way. Her not-­so-­subtle warnings have been going on for the past month. She knows I want Daddy’s story to seep out, but Mama has made clear there is no room for Daddy on this occasion. Not because she don’t love Daddy, but...

About the Author-

  • KIM JOHNSON held leadership positions in social justice organizations as a teen. She's now a college administrator who maintains civic engagement throughout the community while also mentoring Black student activists and leaders. This Is My America is her debut novel. It explores racial injustice against innocent Black men who are criminally sentenced and the families left behind to pick up the pieces. She holds degrees from the University of Oregon and the University of Maryland, College Park. Kim lives her best life in Oregon with her husband and two kids. Find her at KCJOHNSONWRITES.COM and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @kcjohnsonwrites.

Reviews-

  • School Library Journal

    March 27, 2020

    Gr 9 Up-Desperate to raise awareness for her father's wrongful conviction case, Tracy Beaumont, 17, hijacks her track-star brother Jamal's TV interview. With less than a year until their father is executed for a crime he didn't commit, Tracy hopes the interview will gain the attention of Innocence X, an organization that helps overturn convictions. But the move puts her at odds with Jamal and their school newspaper's editor, Angela. Before Tracy can make things right, Angela is murdered and Jamal is the number one suspect. Now this likable, dogged narrator has two battle fronts and is passionately seeking justice. The story hits the ground running with the TV interview but loses momentum as it moves into introducing the rest of the characters and setting. The awkward pacing is most notable at the beginning, but persists with several stops and starts throughout the story. Despite the pacing issues, there is excitement aplenty, with skeletons in closets, a love triangle, dynamic secondary characters, and a seamless blend of realistic fiction and murder mystery. VERDICT The emotional descriptions are a bit perfunctory and consequently some of the events don't land with the expected emotional weight, but overall this is a strong debut. Will appeal to readers of Angie Thomas and fans of criminal justice podcasts like Serial and In the Dark.-Aaren Tucker, University of Illinois

    Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    April 15, 2020
    Grades 9-12 Tracey Beaumont has always believed in her father, even after he was convicted and sentenced to death. She keeps her faith by regularly writing letters to Innocence X, which advocates for the wrongfully imprisoned. When her world is rocked once more by accusations against her brother, she does more than write. With a thirst for justice, she follows clues that unravel the hidden history of her town. But time is not on her side. With her brother on the run, the police manhunt is growing more fervent. Meanwhile, Tracey's investigations have caught the attention of long-hidden white supremacist organizations that will do anything to see her fail. Uniting a well-paced mystery with lessons about history and activism, Kim Johnson has penned a tale that manages to teach and thrill. Not only does it illuminate how prejudice can lie dormant and operate in the darkness, but it also shows how a community can rally to heal and support young people dealing with legacies of hate. This strong debut will strike home with socially conscious readers.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Kirkus

    May 15, 2020
    Showcases one family's persistent and courageous fight for freedom against a broken criminal justice system. At the center of this story is Tracy Beaumont, a black 17-year-old. Every week she's been writing letters to Innocence X (think Innocence Project or the Equal Justice Initiative) on behalf of her father, who has been sentenced to death row in their home state of Texas, wrongfully accused of murder. There's less than a year until it will be all over. Yet Tracy holds on deeply to hope that in her small-town neighborhood and across the U.S. people will recognize failures in justice. This is thrown into jeopardy when her older brother, Jamal, a local track star, is accused of killing a white girl. Could these two cases be connected? Tracy, an emerging journalist, has to wrestle with the present-day legacy of an overwhelmingly racist history, needing support not only from family, but also a strong legal team and, just maybe, a good cop, if there are any to be found. Johnson's debut draws on her own experiences as an activist to offer a realistic depiction of reckoning with the complex and too-often-fatal issues that plague black Americans today. Her belief in the power of social movements shines through, inciting a new generation of social change activists to be called into service of transformative change. Harrowing and worthwhile; a call-to-action from the anti-racist insights of a generation of black activists. (author's note, additional resources) (Fiction. 12-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 20, 2020
    Activist Johnson’s powerful debut is a timely testimony that echoes the social realities behind today’s #BlackLivesMatter protests. For seven years, Tracy Beaumont, a Black 17-year-old, has written letters to Innocence X, a legal firm representing wrongfully convicted people on death row, begging them to take her father’s case. Her dad has less than one year left before he is executed by Texas for murder; the Beaumonts know both that he is innocent and that it’s easier for Galveston County to believe that a Black man committed the crime than to face the possibility of his innocence. As the clock ticks, Tracy is forced to relive her father’s arrest when a white sheriff accuses her elder brother, college-bound athlete Jamal, of murdering a white girl. Faced with the possibility of losing another family member to an unjust judicial system, Tracy begins her own investigation into the incident. Weaving together a gripping murder mystery and a heartfelt narrative about a girl trying to save her family, Johnson explores the systemic, generational effects of police brutality, mass incarceration, and racism on the Black community. Through Tracy’s work as an advocate, high school journalist, and Know Your Rights workshop leader, the author also offers a lens into combating social inequalities and their effects. A list of resources and suggested reading arms readers with valuable tools to promote change. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jennifer March Soloway, Andrea Brown Literary.

  • Nic Stone, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin "An incredible and searing examination of the often-tragic collision of racism and a flawed criminal justice system. Read and reread ... and reread again."
  • Paste Magazine "This is My America promises a powerful story about racial injustice, featuring stunning prose reminiscent of Nic Stone and Angie Thomas."

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