Punching the Air
by Zoboi, Ibi; Salaam, Yusef (CON); Pasha, Omar T. (ILT)






The award-winning author of American Street and the prison reform activist of the Exonerated Five trace the story of a young artist and poet whose prospects at a diverse art school are threatened by a racially biased system and a tragic altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood. 150,000 first printing. Simultaneous eBook.





*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. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.





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 Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.






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