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. Perfect 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, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. 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
Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he 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.
Dr. Yusef Salaam was just fifteen years old when his life was upended after being wrongly convicted in the “Central Park jogger” case, along with four other boys who are now known as the Exonerated Five. In 2002, after the young men spent between seven and thirteen years of their lives behind bars, their sentences were overturned, and they were fully exonerated. Their story has been documented in the award-winning film The Central Park Five by documentarians Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon and in Ava DuVernay’s highly acclaimed series When They See Us, one of Netflix’s most-watched original series of all time. Yusef is now a poet, activist, and inspirational speaker who lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama, among other honors. You can find him online at www.yusefspeaks.com.
“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.”
— Jason Reynolds, award-winning, bestselling author of Long Way Down
“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.” — Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author
“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.” — Jacqueline Woodson, award-winning, bestselling author of Brown Girl Dreaming
Praise for BLACK ENOUGH: “A poignant collection of stunning short stories by Black, rock star authors” — Booklist (starred review)
Praise for BLACK ENOUGH: “A breath of fresh air…nuanced and necessary.” — Kirkus Reviews (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.” — School Library Journal (starred review)
Praise for BLACK ENOUGH: “The stories, all worth savoring, share a celebratory outlook on black teenagers fully and courageously embracing life.” — Publishers Weekly (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 PRIDE: “Stands solidly on its own while cleverly paralleling Austen’s classic… in a contemporary story about race, gentrification, and young love” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Praise for AMERICAN STREET: “Self-assured, elegant and utterly captivating.” — New York Times
Praise for AMERICAN STREET: “Mixing gritty street life with the tenderness of first love, Haitian Vodou, and family bonds, the book is at once chilling, evocative, and reaffirming.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Praise for AMERICAN STREET: “Filling her pages with magic, humanity, tragedy, and hope, Zoboi builds up, takes apart, and then rebuilds an unforgettable story. This book will take root in readers’ hearts.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Praise for AMERICAN STREET: “Zoboi’s stunning debut intertwines mysticism and love with grit and violence…Fierce and beautiful.” — Booklist (starred review)
Praise for AMERICAN STREET: “Will reach young readers regardless of their background.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
Praise for AMERICAN STREET: “A breathtaking story about contemporary America that will serve as a mirror to some and a window for others, and it will stay with anyone who reads it.” — School Library Journal (starred review)