Punching The Air

 By: Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Location: FIC ZOB

Genre: Poetry Fiction, Social Justice, Race


Powerful, lyrical, and emotional. This book is a perfect distillation of impotent rage, creative energy, and hesitant, desperate hope

he 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, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighbourhood 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’s bright future is upended: he 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?


"I don't think I can express how important, poignant and devastating this novel was to read. Written in collaboration with Yusef Salaam, one of the exonerated five, this clearly draws heavily in Salaam's own experiences to help shape the main character of Amal. Amal is simply a boy, in the wrong place, who makes one mistake that leads to devastating consequences.

Being black, Amal speaks candidly of his experiences in jail, of never getting to simply be a kid, and giving up on his dreams of poetry and art because he knows that's not in his expected future. It was heartbreaking to read, and also made me so angry. The injustices that Amal faces are mirrored with what happens in the actual world.

This is also written in verse, and I think it lends itself very well to the text - giving Amal a more human, emotional connection to the reader as we get to experience Amal's life from his deepest, most inner thoughts. The prose are beautiful, and the imagery is perfectly pitched to match Amal's feelings of regret, remorse and grief at the loss of his future.

Such a timely and incredibly important read." Sara- Goodreads

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