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Punching the Air Hardcover – Illustrated, September 1, 2020
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From the Publisher
From School Library Journal
"Awardworthy. Soul-stirring. A must-read.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
"Prescient and sobering, Zoboi’s book is a vital story for young readers in a tumultuous time.” (Booklist (starred review))
“Zoboi and Salaam together craft a powerful indictment of institutional racism and mass incarceration through the imagined experience of Amal, a Black, Muslim 16-year-old facing imprisonment.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“The sympathetic, nuanced portrayal of this young man will have readers holding out hope until the novel’s end.” (Horn Book (starred review))
"A mesmerizing novel-in-verse. The poems—sharp, uninhibited and full of metaphors and sensory language—quickly establish Amal's voice, laying bare the anger, despair, hope and talent it holds. Amal's experience of abuse by the system, as well as his peers', incites raw outrage, but his artistic self-expression offers a subtle yet significant kind of hope. It is a hope borne of anger, that knows the full depths of injustice and still dreams of a better future.”
(Shelf Awareness (starred review))
"A wrenching novel whose story, told in verse, is both urgent and heartbreakingly familiar....Amal’s name is the Arabic word for 'hope.' That is what this book ultimately offers, too. Everyone should read it." (New York Times Book Review)
“Punching the Air highlights that wrongful convictions, the school-to-prison pipeline and the fear mongering of Black bodies is etched in the United States Constitution itself, ironically in the Thirteenth Amendment that criminalizes slavery but simultaneously creates an entirely new system of enslavement: the American prison system. It is not easy to break these topics down to adults, never mind children. But Punching the Air does so effectively through verse that feels honest and clear." (USA Today)
“Amal’s voice is often poetic and compelling, and the details of life in NYC juvie are laceratingly vivid. An engaging and accessible read sure to provoke discussion, perhaps in conjunction with a factual exploration of Salaam’s own experiences or in partnership with Myers’ Monster.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)
“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)
- Grade level : 9 - 12
- Item Weight : 15.5 ounces
- Hardcover : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0062996487
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062996480
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.25 x 8.25 inches
- Reading level : 14 - 17 years
- Publisher : Balzer + Bray; Illustrated edition (September 1, 2020)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #12,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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A book written in verse (including poems written by Dr Salaam whilst he was in prison) we start off with the court case with the protagonist, Amal, reflecting on his life as we build up to how he got there. The second and third part covers his time in Juve and the system within.
Dr Yusuf Salaam is one of the Exonerated 5, and whilst inspired by his experience it is not about it. Amal is a teenager in modern times with social media and videos helping and hurting his cause.
This book highlighted the many ways in which systems fail black children from teachers, to lawyers and police, judges, media and then of course the correction system.
I’ve refused to watch When They See Us because I don’t know what I’ll do with that anger but this book highlighted many things that made me wonder if the people that failed the Exonerated 5 and countless other children feel remorse; have repented or better yet, been served Karma’s justice.
This is a must read. Not only in the US but any country with disproportionate amounts of people in prison and / or a privatized prison system which South Africa is considering.
In the end the five would spend 6-13 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit.
Punching the Air is a collaboration between award winning author Ibi Zoboi and Exonerated Five member Yusef Salaam. It tells the story of a teenage boy Amal who has been wrongfully convicted of a crime. The book is a beautifully rendered piece that delves into the disenfranchisement of young black men.
“Locking you up isn’t enough
for them They will try to crush your spirit until
you’re nothing but —
we both say
Written in verse, Punching the Air shows Amal whose name means hope draw strength through creativity. His poems and art are glimpses of freedom that give him hope to carry on.
” And what does dust do, Amal?
What did Maya Angelou say about dust?
It rises, I whisper”
Amal is an artist, he has aspirations to go to an art college and make a living out of making art. But when he is convicted, he feels all of that has slipped through his fingers.
This book is extremely powerful and intense and I really loved it. It had a steady rhythm in both the points of systematic racism that this book touches upon, as well as the Amal's emotional narrative about his heritage. This touched upon many things that are currently being brought to light in the Black Lives Matter movement and this is extremely relevant to our time.
I do love this but being that this is a book told completely in verse I think its powerful narrative could have been amplified further if I had consumed it as an audio book rather than in physical book form. As much as I love this book, it is definitely meant to be heard and not seen. These verses follow that of spoken word poetry and I might consume it again in the future through my ears rather than through my eyes.
Top reviews from other countries
I wish there was a version of this book that contained no swearing so I could share it with my Year 6 students and help them understand the circumstances that lead some young black men into prison. Coming from a predominantly white area of the UK, I think this story would serve a huge purpose and have a massive impact on them.
This book is beautiful, relevant and poignant.