Wednesday, July 22, 2020

This Is My America by Kim Johnson ARC Review

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This is My America by Kim Johnson
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Dear Martin meets Just Mercy in this unflinching yet uplifting YA 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 and Jason Reynolds won’t want to miss this provocative and gripping debut.  
'This is My America' is a gripping, page-turning novel of activism in motion. The book accurately depicts the injustices of the American justice system, and how it’s turned away from fairness, justice, and the concept of innocent until proven guilty. But notably, how the justice system often knowingly points towards the legal enslavement of Black people, Black men to be specific. 

At the helm of the story is Tracy, a teenager whose father is on death row with just months left until his scheduled execution. While fighting to help free him, Tracy's family is rocked to its core when her brother, Jamal, track star, and town loved, is accused of killing a white girl. As a result, Jamal is on the run leaving Tracy to fight for both her brother's life and her father's life with little time to spare. T.I.M.A is a knockout of a novel that starts with a powerful one-liner dictating the tracking of time. “Time runs my life. A constant measuring of what’s gone and what’s to come.” Time quickly becomes the enemy to the plot of this story, but it is also the thing that ends it beautifully.

Tracy’s strength in this novel, her beautiful vulnerability, and her powerful, unwavering voice pulled me into the book and what kept me around. Her position of power in this book is significant and will be meaningful to young Black women who will at some point read this book. They will see themselves as having voices, not as being voiceless, as being powerful and not powerless. I commend Johnson for using a girl as a voice of this moment, but for also making her beautifully dark-skinned. I appreciated Tracy’s character—the way she questioned everything, and the way she stuck to her guns even when the rest of the world wanted her to stop. She was a key to the story, and the author wrote her in such a way that she practically leaped off the page in realism.

I also really enjoyed the family dynamic. Though the father was in prison, the author made it her duty to make sure she didn't erase him from the story. He wasn't just a man in the background the reader never finds out about. It was important to see, and I’m glad the author allowed the reader to meet the father where he was but also allows the reader to see who he is—a Black man on the wrong side of the fence. 

I feel like I can’t fully articulate my thoughts coherently. The book rattled me in the best ways possible. My heart is both sad and full. My eyes are both dry and misty. I feel both impassioned and discouraged. This book is the change I would love to see but is also the stark reality I have to face as a Black person. 

This is My America delicately and powerfully depicts, and balances racism inside and outside of the justice system, and it will sit with me for quite some time. 

Everything about this story worked—from the romantic aspect and how it gets handled, to how the crimes unfurl. 'This is My America' is a well-written piece of literature and is one I would return to repeatedly. It's also one I will recommend just as often. An evocative, stunning, and shattering debut. 

1 comment:

  1. First of all, what an absolutely STUNNING cover!
    It sounds like the book was a very emotional experience and that the author depicted the reality of racial imbalances beautifully. My heart aches for Tracy. It definitely seems like I will love her character just from your review. I will request the library to buy a copy!