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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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  • From the cover 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-

  • 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.

  • AudioFile Magazine Bahni Turpin's heartfelt narration highlights the determination of a family as they encounter the painful realities of the criminal justice system. Seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont's father, an innocent man, has been sentenced to death, and although her family is exhausted with worry, they remain hopeful that the truth will come out. Then things go from bad to much worse when Tracy's brother, Jamal, a track star, is accused of killing a white girl. Turpin is in her element as she narrates Tracy's story, portraying her grief and fury as she confronts the deep-seated systemic racism and judicial inequities in her community. Turpin's portrayal of Tracy shines with authenticity and depth, and other characterizations are equally well crafted, bringing out the tension, despair, and deep love that powers this all-too-timely story. S.A.H. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award � AudioFile 2020, Portland, Maine
  • Library Journal

    Starred review from March 1, 2021

    For the past seven years, 17-year-old Tracy Beaumont has been writing weekly letters to Innocence X, hoping that a lawyer there will take her father's case and help free him from a wrongful murder conviction that put him on death row. He and another Black man were accused of killing a white couple. Tracy is willing to do anything to get Innocence X's attention, even hijack her brother Jamal's interview with the local news about his track and field prowess. Not long after that, one of Tracy's classmates on the school paper, a white girl, is murdered, and Jamal is accused of the crime. Remembering how their father was treated, Jamal goes on the run, and Tracy is torn between clearing him and working to free her father. Little does she know that the cases intersect, connecting through a long-buried history in the town. Narrator Bahni Turpin brings this story to life in her typically brilliant fashion, through Tracy's voice and the people in her life. Each character's voice is unique and fits well with their personality and portrayal. This YA novel with crossover appeal provides a vivid look into the deep history of racial tensions and what families face when Black men are wrongly accused of crimes. VERDICT The struggle Tracy and her family are facing is raw and real; it's a story that needs to be read (or heard). This audiobook brings a powerful depth to the emotions and events.--Courtney Pentland, Omaha, NE

    Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from March 1, 2021

    Gr 7 Up-For the past seven years, 17-year-old Tracy Beaumont has been writing weekly letters to Innocence X in the hopes that a lawyer there will take her father's case to help free him from a wrongful murder conviction that put him on death row. He and another Black man were accused of killing a white couple. Tracy is willing to do anything to get Innocence X's attention, even hijack her brother Jamal's interview with the local news station about his track and field prowess. Not long after that, one of Tracy's classmates on the school paper, a white girl, is murdered, and Jamal is accused of the crime. Remembering how their father was treated, Jamal goes on the run, and Tracy is torn between clearing him and working to free her father. Little does she know that both cases intersect, connecting through a long-buried history in the town that is starting to come to light. Narrator Bahni Turpin brings this story to life in her typically brilliant fashion through Tracy's voice and those of the people in her life. Each character's voice is unique and fits well with their personality and portrayal. This book provides a vivid look into what families face when Black men are wrongly accused of crimes and the deep history racial tensions can have in communities. VERDICT The struggle Tracy and her family are facing is raw and real; it's a story that needs to be heard. This audiobook brings a powerful depth to the emotions and events.-Courtney Pentland, Omaha, NE

    Copyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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