From 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.
Punching the Air is based partly on Salaam’s experience as a wrongfully incarcerated teen. The book follows Amal Shahid, a Black, Muslim teenager who has always been an artist and a poet. One fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy, and 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.
Jason Reynolds called Punching the Air “a masterwork of humanity,” and Jackie Woodson writes, “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.”
Ibi Zoboi says, “At the center of Amal’s story is the cycle of racial violence that continues to plague this country. But this is not just a story about a crime or race. It’s about the power of art, faith, and transcendence in the most debilitating circumstances.”
Yusef Salaam says, “Punching the Air reflects not only my story, but the stories of millions of young boys and girls of color who face the injustice of mass incarceration and the criminal justice system. Books have the power to change the way we think and transform societies. This novel is a continuation of my work to shine a light on the reality of our criminal justice system and inspire young people to advocate for change.”
With spellbinding lyricism, Punching the Air tells 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.
Perfect for fans of the Noughts & Crosses series and The Hate U Give, this book is most suited for those aged 14+.
You can find some more downloadable resources to use with young people here.