I want to preface this review by saying that as a white woman and because of the privilege associated with that, I haven’t had to face the microaggressions and police brutality that many people of color, including Black people face, especially now. I cannot speak to the representation of that in the book but I can speak to having a family member incarcerated.
I can speak for the fight for justice and wanting, wishing, and needing your incarcerated loved one returned to you. I’ve felt that life would be better, that everything would be fixed, if that person was home. Reading a book that spoke to just a small part of that experience was complicated. It was hard to read but also cathartic and at the end I felt like I was bursting with hope for these characters. I felt connected to them. I’m so grateful to Kim Johnson for that, and I hope others who might have experience with familial incarceration can also gain some comfort in this book, if only because the feelings that are so immediate and present are reflected in the pages.
This Is My America is a novel about Tracy Beaumont and her fight for justice for her father, brother, and the innocent people affected by corruption in her Texas town. Tracy’s father was accused of murdering an affluent couple in their town and unjustly sentenced to death row. For seven years, Tracy wrote to Innocence X to plead that they take his case and help clear his name. As his execution date nears, Tracy’s hope wanes and so does the chance of an appeal. And when a local girl is murdered, the police suspect Tracy’s brother, Jamal. With her brother on the run for a crime he didn’t commit, the town that once turned against the Beaumonts for the accusations against her father and then lauded her track star brother turns their backs to him too. With no other options, Tracy begins to look into the suspicious death of her classmate and fights to free her brother all while praying for their father’s appeal and uncovers the dark racist past and present actions of their neighbors.
This book is a triumph of justice and hope and full of characters that I only wish I had an ounce of their courage and tenacity. Tracy’s story is necessary and timely and should be read, shared, and awarded. It also made me furious, exhausted, and horribly sad. But it lifted me up and made me cheer for the Beaumonts and their friends and family. Tracy was a force to behold and a joy to follow on this particularly difficult journey. I’ve always been invested in the Innocence Project, and this book reinvigorated my admiration and respect for the people who advocate for programs like this. I hope it does for others too and opens the doors to people interested in racial and criminal justice just like Tracy.