When did it come to you to write This Is My America?
How long did it take?
I think the early groundings of this book started around 2014.
I work at a university and a lot of my students who I work with and support are Black. They were really involved in Black Lives Matter activities that were happening in our local community and a lot of the conversation was very focused on police brutality.
I started to think about writing something to address it to young readers. It was right in the moment of Eric Garner. At the time my son was six; he had come downstairs and I had the news on and didn’t realize they were actually going to play footage. He was so upset by what was happening and I started to think about my work and the way I wanted to move some of the activism work I do in real life into a book. So when I saw Jason Reynolds’s announcement for his book All American Boys and Angie Thomas’s The Hate You Give I was like, “Wow! There could be a space in YA for this.”
Having a strong understanding and history of our larger criminal justice system, I decided I wanted to write a book that would have components of interactions with the police, but would look at systemic issues in terms of the entire cycle.
It wasn’t until around 2016 that I really pushed forward and finished the novel. Looking back at it, the books that I used as references when I was writing are now the books that are hitting the bestseller lists because they are anti-racist books. All of those books are really my foundation.