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Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam
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Punching the Air

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Narrator Ethan Herisse

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Length 4 hours 28 minutes
Language English
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New York Times and USA Today bestseller * Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor * Walter Award Winner * Goodreads Finalist for Best Teen Book of the Year * Time Magazine Best Book of the Year * Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year * Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year * School Library Journal Best Book of the Year * Kirkus Best Book of the Year * New York Public Library Best Book of the Year

From award-winning, 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. A must-read for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born 

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, because of a biased system he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated. Then, one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white. 

The story that I think

will be my life 

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, 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. This never should have been his story. But can he change it? 

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell 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.

Ibi Zoboi is the New York Times bestselling author of American Street, a National Book Award finalist; Nigeria Jones, a Coretta Scott King Award winner; Pride; My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich; Okoye to the People: A Black Panther Novel for Marvel; and the Walter Award and LA Times Book Prize–winning Punching the Air, cowritten with Exonerated Five member Yusef Salaam. She is also a two-time Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner for her picture book The People Remember and her middle grade biography of Octavia Butler, Star Child. She is the editor of the anthology Black Enough. Born in Haiti and raised in New York City, she now lives in New Jersey with her family. You can find her online at ibizoboi.net.

Dr. Yusef Salaam was just fifteen years old when his life was upended after being wrongly convicted with four other boys in the “Central Park jogger” case. In 2002, after the young men spent years of their lives behind bars, their sentences were overturned. Now known as the Exonerated Five, their story has been documented in the award-winning film The Central Park Five by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon and in Ava DuVernay’s highly acclaimed series When They See Us. Yusef is now a poet, activist, and inspirational speaker. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama, among other honors. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Sanovia, and their children. You can find him online at www.yusefspeaks.com.

Buy one get one free

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Become a member and shop our members-only, 10th anniversary buy-one-get-one sale in support of We Are LIT.

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Celebrate our 10th Anniversary with giveaways, merch, and more! Learn more

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