I received this book from NetGalley and Random House’s books for young children in exchange of an honest review.
TW: racism, racial injustice, police brutality, murder, Ku Klux Klan, inequality, bullying
Tracy Beaumont is seventeen years old and every week she writes a letter to Innocence X, an organization that could be able to help her and her family free her father, James, an innocent Black man, sentenced to death in Texas.
After seven years and uncountable letters, the Beaumounts are running out of time, because James Beaumont has only 267 days left.
Then their life is turned upside down again when her older brother, Jamal, is accused of murdering Angela, a white girl, Tracy’s colleague in the school newspaper and their classmates.
Desperate to do anything in her power to save her family, her brother and father, Tracy decides to discover what really happened to Jamal and Angela at the Pike, the place where she was murdered.
What exposè was Angela talking about when she asked Tracy’s help? Is it possible that her murder is connected to the double murders James Beaumont was unjustly accused of?
While trying to discover what really happened, helped by her friends and allies, Tracy starts to uncover an ugly truth about the past and present of her city. And the people around her.
This is my America is a powerful, searing and heartbreaking, but hopeful at the same time, debut novel. Told from Tracy’s POV and from her letters to Innocence X, this book is incredible and intense.
The writing style is able to engage right away the reader, the plot is thrilling, full of twists and lies and truths and the characterization is skillfully written. I was blown away by this book, This is my America deals with complex and important topics regarding and impacting the lives of Black Americans.
I found really interesting, heartbreaking and important reading the author’s note, where Kim Johnson talks about the racism in the criminal justice system in America, police brutality, mass incarceration and the rise of white suprematists.
This is my America is a work of fiction, but the topics discussed are current, complex and important. I was captivated right away by This is my America. Tracy is a powerful main character, strong-willed, brave, aware of the injustices in the world, but determined to do anything in her power to educate herself and others and to fight for a better world and justice system.
Tracy is surrounded by strong characters, like her brother Jamal, her friends Tasha, Dean and Quincy, while she tries everything to understand what happened the night Angela was killed and discovering some truths able to shock her and the whole city.
Through her eyes the reader is able to know a determined and brilliant young woman, loyal to her family and friends, aware of the police brutality and the injustice in the system. I found her workshop, Know Your Rights, both empowering and “sad” at the same time, realizing the importance of learning their rights and how to deal with the police in various scenarios, being Black, and the fact they should have to learn how to deal in the first place.
I liked reading about funny and sweet moments between Tracy and her family and friend and between her and her love interest(s), moments well mixed in her fight and journey to justice.
Through her friend Tasha’s relationship with her father, the author shows how life after prison isn’t easy, underlining the real-life struggles in Tracy’s family too.
The title itself underlines a double America and the main character lives in her Black America, where Black people are more likely to get arrested, pulled over, shot or killed and where they are considered in a different way just for the colour of their skin.
Unfortunately true is the comparison the main character does in the book:
“When I watch the news, I can tell without even looking at the TV if the suspect if white or Black.
A “young man who lost his way” or “was afflicted by mental illness”=white.
A “thug” with “trouble in school”= Black”
(quote from the earc, so subject to changes)
The double standard, the ingrained racism is another topics present in the book, a racism Tracy saw in her best friend too and in the city where she lives with her family and where people found easier point the blame to a Black man.
Because of her father violent arrest and injust trial, her father’s friends death and his son Quincy being hurt at the hand hand of the police, a profound mistrust of the police is clear and understandable.
The author, even underlining the police’s corruptions and tampering with evidences and witness, inserts characters like Beverly Ridges and the evolution in Sheriff Brighton’s and Officer Clyde’s to show that exist police officers that are working to fight against implicit and explicit bias and the police oppression system.
A broken system, a powerful and intense main character, This is my America is a book that broke my heart and gave me hope at the same time. It’s a powerful and empowering book and I recommend it to those who are looking for a strong female character, amazing and important plot, serious topics and hopeful and realistic ending.
I suggest reading the additional resources and suggested references if you want to educate yourself on the topics of police brutality, racism and injustice in criminal prosecution.
This is my America is a book about not being silent, fighting for and demand justice and equality, about family, friendships and love.
One of the best book I’ve read this year.