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Punching the Air
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Punching the Air
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New York Times and USA Today bestseller * Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor * Walter Award Winner * Goodreads Finalist for Best Teen Book of the Year * Time Magazine Best Book of the Year * Publishers...
New York Times and USA Today bestseller * Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor * Walter Award Winner * Goodreads Finalist for Best Teen Book of the Year * Time Magazine Best Book of the Year * Publishers...
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Description-

  • New York Times and USA Today bestseller * Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor * Walter Award Winner * Goodreads Finalist for Best Teen Book of the Year * Time Magazine Best Book of the Year * Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year * Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year * School Library Journal Best Book of the Year * Kirkus Best Book of the Year * New York Public Library Best Book of the Year

    From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. A must-read for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

    The story that I thought

    was my life

    didn't start on the day

    I was born

    Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, because of a biased system he's seen as disruptive and unmotivated. Then, one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. "Boys just being boys" turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

    The story that I think

    will be my life

    starts today

    Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal is convicted of a crime he didn't commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

    With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth in a system designed to strip him of both.

About the Author-

  • Ibi Zoboi holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her novel American Street was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times Notable Book. She is also the author of Pride and My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, a New York Times bestseller. She is the editor of the anthology Black Enough. Born in Haiti and raised in New York City, she now lives in New Jersey with her husband and their three children. You can find her online at www.ibizoboi.net.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 3, 2020
    Zoboi (Pride) and Salaam (one of the Exonerated Five) together craft a powerful indictment of institutional racism and mass incarceration through the imagined experience of Amal, a Black, Muslim 16-year-old facing imprisonment. Amal, a gifted artist and poet attending a prestigious fine arts high school, has his life turned upside down when a nighttime park confrontation leaves a white kid from the other side “of that invisible line/ we weren’t supposed to cross” in a coma, and Amal and his four friends on the hook for assault and battery they did not commit. Using free verse, Zoboi and Salaam experiment with style, structure, and repetition to portray “old soul” Amal’s struggle to hold on to his humanity through the chaotic, often dehumanizing experience of juvenile incarceration. From the trial onward, the authors liken the pervasive imprisonment of Black bodies to the history of chattel slavery in America (“and this door leads to a slave ship/ and maybe jail”), and describe how educational racism feeds Black students into the school-to-prison pipeline (“I failed the class/ she failed me”). Zoboi and Salaam deliver an unfiltered perspective of the anti-Blackness upholding the U.S. criminal justice system through the eyes of a wrongly convicted Black boy (“shaping me into/ the monster/ they wanted me to be”). Ages 14–up. Agent (for Zoboi and Salaam): Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from August 1, 2020

    Gr 8 Up-Sixteen-year-old Amal is tried and convicted of an act of violence against a white boy. While there is a sense that he might not have done what he was accused of doing, it is unimportant whether this is the case for the book to work. Through Amal's first-person verse narration, readers learn about his aspirations as a poet and artist, as well as his experience entering the prison system as a young Black man. It is clear that Amal has had a complex relationship with his education, particularly with his art teacher, who clearly saw his talent but also did not work very hard to support Amal's burgeoning interest, and did a bad job of being a character witness at his trial. The authors do an excellent job of showing how the prison experience can dehumanize young men and how their inherent talents can be overshadowed by their feelings of powerlessness and rage. Coauthored by Zoboi and Salaam, who is one of the Exonerated Five and, as such, has firsthand experience of serving an unfair and unjust prison sentence, this book is not a memoir. Instead, it can be seen as an important statement about widespread experiences and the prison industrial complex, rather than the depiction of a single, notable case. What is clear is that this is not an isolated story. VERDICT This book will be Walter Dean Myers's Monster for a new generation of teens. An important, powerful, and beautiful novel that should be an essential purchase for any library that serves teens.-Kristin Lee Anderson, Jackson County Lib. Svcs., OR

    Copyright 2020 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    August 1, 2020
    Reviving a friendship that goes back almost 20 years, Zoboi writes with Exonerated Five member Salaam, exploring racial tensions, criminal injustice, and radical hope for a new day. Ava DuVernay's critically acclaimed When They See Us tells the story of Salaam's wrongful conviction as a boy, a story that found its way back into the national conversation when, after nearly 7 years in prison, DNA evidence cleared his name. Although it highlights many of the same unjust systemic problems Salaam faced, this story is not a biographical rendering of his experiences. Rather, Zoboi offers readers her brilliance and precision within this novel in verse that centers on the fictional account of 16-year-old Amal Shahid. He's an art student and poet whose life dramatically shifts after he is accused of assaulting a White boy one intense night, drawing out serious questions around the treatment of Black youth and the harsh limitations of America's investment in punitive forms of justice. The writing allows many readers to see their internal voices affirmed as it uplifts street slang, Muslim faith, and hip-hop cadences, showcasing poetry's power in language rarely seen in YA literature. The physical forms of the first-person poems add depth to the text, providing a necessary calling-in to issues central to the national discourse in reimagining our relationship to police and prisons. Readers will ask: Where do we go from here? Awardworthy. Soul-stirring. A must-read. (Verse novel. 12-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from August 1, 2020
    Grades 9-12 *Starred Review* A single punch leads to a fight between Amal and his friends?all Black?and a group of white boys from a gentrifying part of his neighborhood. Amal is found guilty of assault while his friends are given plea deals. All are sent to prison, while the white boys involved are not charged at all. In prison, Amal gets a stark education on how unjust the justice system is as he witnesses guards abusing their power, administrators carelessly ignoring the welfare of the imprisoned as if their lives are disposable, and the avenues of rehabilitation proving to be decrepit and empty. Only Amal's painting and poetry allow him to withstand the torture of physical beatings and solitary confinement. Zoboi worked with prison reform activist Yusef Salaam to create Amal's story in verse. Yusef himself was a victim of wrongful incarceration when he and four other young men were convicted of a crime they did not commit. His experiences lend a visceral gravitas to Zoboi's pen, and together they capture Amal's emotional struggles as he grasps for hope despite his circumstances. Moreover, they accurately depict the justice system as an engine fine-tuned to crush the urban poor and young Black men in particular. Prescient and sobering, Zoboi's book is a vital story for young readers in a tumultuous time.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "This book will be Walter Dean Myers's Monster for a new generation of teens. An important, powerful, and beautiful novel that should be an essential purchase for any library that serves teens."
  • Horn Book (starred review) "Awardworthy. Soul-stirring. A must-read."
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review) "Prescient and sobering, Zoboi's book is a vital story for young readers in a tumultuous time."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "Zoboi and Salaam together craft a powerful indictment of institutional racism and mass incarceration through the imagined experience of Amal, a Black, Muslim 16-year-old facing imprisonment."
  • Shelf Awareness (starred review) "The sympathetic, nuanced portrayal of this young man will have readers holding out hope until the novel's end."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "A mesmerizing novel-in-verse. The poems—sharp, uninhibited and full of metaphors and sensory language—quickly establish Amal's voice, laying bare the anger, despair, hope and talent it holds. Amal's experience of abuse by the system, as well as his peers', incites raw outrage, but his artistic self-expression offers a subtle yet significant kind of hope. It is a hope borne of anger, that knows the full depths of injustice and still dreams of a better future."
  • School Library Journal (starred review) "A wrenching novel whose story, told in verse, is both urgent and heartbreakingly familiar....Amal's name is the Arabic word for 'hope.' That is what this book ultimately offers, too. Everyone should read it."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "Punching the Air highlights that wrongful convictions, the school-to-prison pipeline and the fear mongering of Black bodies is etched in the United States Constitution itself, ironically in the Thirteenth Amendment that criminalizes slavery but simultaneously creates an entirely new system of enslavement: the American prison system. It is not easy to break these topics down to adults, never mind children. But Punching the Air does so effectively through verse that feels honest and clear."
  • New York Times "Amal's voice is often poetic and compelling, and the details of life in NYC juvie are laceratingly vivid. An engaging and accessible read sure to provoke discussion, perhaps in conjunction with a factual exploration of Salaam's own experiences or in partnership with Myers' Monster."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Stories, at their best, will break something old in you or build something new. Remarkably, Punching The Air does both. Zoboi and Salaam have created nothing short of a masterwork of humanity, with lyrical arms big enough to cradle the oppressed, and metaphoric teeth sharp enough to chomp on the bitter bones of racism. This is more than a story. This is a necessary exploration of anger, and a radical reflection of love, which ultimately makes for an honest depiction of what it means to be young and Black in America."
  • School Library Journal (starred review) "Punching the Air is the profound sound of humanity in verse. About a boy who uses his creative mind to overcome the creativity of racism. About a boy who uses the freedom of art to overcome his incarceration. About you. About me. Utterly indispensable."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "In this beautifully rendered book, we are reminded again of how brilliant and precarious our Black Lives are and how art can ultimately heal us."
  • Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author Praise for BLACK ENOUGH: “A poignant collection of stunning short stories by Black, rock star authors”
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) Praise for BLACK ENOUGH: “A breath of fresh air...nuanced and necessary.”
  • Booklist (starred review) Praise for BLACK ENOUGH: “Each entry is deftly woven and full of such complex humanity that teens will identify with and see some of their own struggles in these characters... This collection presents the beauty of black humanity in all its many forms.”
  • Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Praise for BLACK ENOUGH: “The stories, all worth savoring, share a celebratory outlook on black teenagers fully and courageously embracing life.”
  • Booklist (starred review) Praise for PRIDE: “This Bushwick-set, contemporary retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice tackles gentriciation, Blackness, and romance with honesty, humor, and heart. This excellent coming-of-age take on a classic belongs on all YA shelves.”
  • School Library Journal (starred review) Praise for...

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