Monday, 7:30 pm EDT October 5, 2020
On America series brings fiction writers together with journalists, scholars, activists, and other agents for change for a deeply thoughtful reflection on issues affecting the nation. See events in series.
In the summer of 2020, the national conversation about police brutality shifted from talk of reform to talk of dismantling an inherently unjust and racist system. In this panel, we turn our attention to the way this system has impacted generations of incarcerated youth and their families and to investigate paths to real justice. Joining the conversation are investigative journalist Nell Bernstein, author of Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison, celebrated young adult author Ibi Zoboi, who collaborated with Dr. Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five on Punching the Air, a stirring novel-in-verse about finding hope when wrongfully incarcerated, and Nic Stone, whose latest book, Dear Justyce, gives voice to an imprisoned black teenager through his letters to Justyce.
In a conversation moderated by Miwa Messer, guests will discuss what it means to write about these issues for young readers in a year that has many parents looking to literature to help their children understand the world we live in now.
Presented in collaboration with the Center for Nuleadership on Human Justice & Healing.
Dr. Yusef Salaam
Dr. Yusef Salaam
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.Photo courtesy of Staci Marie Studio
Ibi Zoboi holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her novel American Street was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times Notable Book. She is also the author of Pride and My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, a New York Times bestseller. 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 husband and their three children.Photo courtesy of Joseph Zoboi
Nic Stone is an Atlanta native and a Spelman College graduate. Her debut novel for young adults, Dear Martin, and her debut middle-grade novel, Clean Getaway, were New York Times bestsellers. She is also the author of Odd One Out, a novel about discovering oneself and who it is okay to love, which was an NPR Best Book of the Year and a Rainbow Book List Top Ten selection, and Jackpot, a love-ish story that takes a searing look at economic inequality. She lives in Atlanta with her family.Photo courtesy of Nigel Livingstone
Nell Bernstein is the author of All Alone in the World: Children of the Incarcerated, a Newsweek “Book of the Week,” and Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison (both published by The New Press). She is a former Soros Justice Media Fellow and a winner of a White House Champion of Change award. Her articles have appeared in Newsday, Salon, Mother Jones, and the Washington Post, among other publications. She lives in Albany, California.
A career bookseller, Miwa Messer is the Editorial Director of Barnes & Noble.
Photo courtesy of DP Jolly
By Nic Stone
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers
In the highly anticipated sequel to her New York Times bestseller Dear Martin, Nic Stone delivers an unflinching look into the flawed practices and silenced voices in the American juvenile justice system. Through a series of flashbacks, vignettes, and letters to Justyce—the protagonist of Dear Martin—Quan’s story takes form. Troubles at home and misunderstandings at school give rise to police encounters and tough decisions. But then there’s a dead cop and a weapon with Quan’s prints on it. What leads a bright kid down a road to a murder charge? Not even Quan is sure.
Punching the Air
By Yusef Salaam and Ibi Zoboi
Published by Balzer & Bray/Harperteen
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. 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? 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..
Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison
By Nell Bernstein
Published by New Press
In what the San Francisco Chronicle called “an epic work of investigative journalism that lays bare our nation’s brutal and counterproductive juvenile prisons and is a clarion call to bring our children home,” Nell Bernstein eloquently argues that there is no good way to lock up a child. Making the radical argument that state-run detention centers should be abolished completely, her “passionate and convincing” (Kirkus) book points out that our system of juvenile justice flies in the face of everything we know about what motivates young people to change.
About this series
Our On America series explores issues important to all Americans as we approach the 2020 election. Who are we? Who are we becoming? How do the stories we tell shape who we are as a nation?
Story/Teller with Jess Walter and David Duchovny$30
Thursday, 7:30 pm EDT October 29, 2020
On America: A Performance of James Baldwin's "The White Problem"Free
Thursday, 7:30 pm EDT November 5, 2020
The Art of the Short Story: Nicole Krauss on To Be a Man with Julie Orringer$30
Monday, 7:30 pm EDT November 9, 2020
Story/Teller with Jonathan Lethem, Edward Norton, and Kim Stanley RobinsonFree
Monday, 7:30 pm EDT November 16, 2020
Story/Teller with Zeyn Joukhadar, Samy Nour Younes, Leila Buck, and Jenn Baker
Tuesday, 7:30 pm EDT November 24, 2020
The Center for Fiction Annual Awards Benefit
Thursday, 7:30 pm EDT December 3, 2020