If you love Young Adult novels, you know that 2020 is going to be a year of amazing releases. We’ve already revealed the covers of multiple books hitting shelves in the coming months, including titles by Aminah Mae Safi and Adi Alsaid. Today, we’re excited to add Kim Johnson’s debut novel to the list.
This is My America promises a powerful story about racial injustice, featuring stunning prose reminiscent of Nic Stone and Angie Thomas. Here’s the description from the publisher:
Every week, 17-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?
Random House Children’s Books will release Johnson’s novel on July 28th, 2020. Check out the gorgeous cover below, which was designed by Ray Shappell and illustrated by Chuck Styles, and read on for a first look at an exclusive excerpt.
Cover design by Ray Shappell; illustration by Chuck Styles.
If you’re as excited about this debut as we are, you can pre-order This Is My America here.
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,
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 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 because she wants Jamal to have a clean slate at college as Jamal, not “Jamal, the son of a murderer.”
If it was a few years ago, I’d understand, but Daddy’s got less than a year. No extensions. No money for more appeals. While time uncoils itself from Daddy’s lifeline, she’s forbidden Susan Touric from mentioning him, too. The show agreed not to talk about Daddy in exchange for Jamal showing up; and if Susan tries anything, Mama says we’ll straight up leave.
Mama stands by me and leans near my ear. “Tracy, ain’t it something to see your big brother’s hard work paying off?”
“Mmm-hmm,” I say, even though I’m still hoping the journalist in Susan can’t help but fling open Pandora’s box—on live television.
Mama won’t be able to stop it then.
Then our truth can breathe free.