When Kim Johnson was writing This Is My America back in 2015, there’s no way she could have predicted her debut YA novel about racial justice and America’s judicial system would be so relevant. And yet, the novel, which is set against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter, could easily have been written today.
In the book, 17-year-old Tracy Beaumont is petitioning on behalf of her father, an innocent Black man who has been sentenced to death. Then her older brother, Jamal, goes from being a promising track star to a “thug” on the run after being accused of killing Angela, a white girl. Seeing what the justice system has already done to her father, Tracy takes matters into her own hands and investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela.
Like her main character, Johnson also held leadership positions in social justice organizations as a teen. Today, she’s a college administrator who works in both the division of equity and inclusion and as director of the center for multicultural advising at the University of Oregon, all while mentoring Black student activists and leaders.