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Common Reading 2020-21: Listen. Learn. Act.

This theme for 2020-21 is dedicated to listening to and learning about Blackness and Black experience.

About the Book

Book cover image of This is my America by Kim Johnson

Cover Art copyright 2020 by Chuck Styles, used under Fair Use for Educational Purposes

"Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking them to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has 267 days left.​

Then one night changes everything. The police arrive, pounding on the door, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a 'thug' on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. And as Tracy discovers the racist history that still haunts her small town’s present, she begins to wonder if she’s lighting the torch that will illuminate her family’s innocence...or lighting the fuse that will cause her world to explode.

Kim Johnson’s gripping debut is a revelation—an incendiary, crucial look at the American justice system delivered as an uplifting read where love conquers hate and justice is delivered in the face of injustice."

-Book synopsis from the author's website


Updated Sections for Winter Term

The 2020-2021 Common Reading theme is Listen. Learn. Act. The Fall Term featured the 1619 Project Podcast. With the announcement of the novel, This is My America by Kim Johnson, for Winter Term, new sections of this guide have been added to explore further themes and topics presented in the novel. Explore the subpages using the side navigation or these links:

If you have comments, suggestions, or questions, please visit the Acknowledging Challenging Content section of this guide. Please also see the Additional Resources & FAQs page for some further information about how this guide was developed.

Get the Book

If you are a First-Year Student at UO, you will receive a copy of Kimberly Johnson's book through the Common Reading Program. 

The UO Libraries also has several print copies and a 1-user licensed eBook available. If these aren't available, you might check out your local public library on the Libby App for an eBook or audio book!

Looking for Further Reading?

Each page of the guide features titles that relate to the page themes. The links below take you to some special sections with recommended works that we have highlighted for you:

"Tracy's Corner"

Logo from the Common Reading Program's 2020 theme that says "Act" Tracy's Corner for Justice

In the novel, Tracy Beaumont's tireless efforts on behalf of her father bring a lawyer from Innocence X to help with their case. She doesn't stop there, Tracy decides to launch a Corner for Justice podcast to highlight issues of injustice. According to the Author's Note, Kimberly Johnson envisions "Tracy's Corner" as a way she would call other students to action.

How can you get involved?

  • Donate to organizations working toward justice
  • Volunteer your time
  • Share what you have learned with others
  • Write to government representatives about issues in your community
  • Support journalism
  • Read books and listen to music from diverse communities
  • Include multicultural perspectives to your news feed
  • Keep learning! Start by borrowing some books from UO Libraries:

Opportunities on Campus

News, Interviews, and Book Reviews

News & Interviews

"Young people are bringing me joy. They are also giving me hope in the future because they are shaping the conversation to explore things we almost thought were unimaginable to resolve." -Kimberly Johnson, in an interview with Edi Campbell

Book Reviews

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About the Author

Photograph of author, Kim Johnson

Kimberly Johnson grew up in Eugene and got involved with the NAACP youth chapter. We are fortunate in the UO community to know Assistant Vice Provost Kimberly Johnson through her work directing advising for the Center for Multicultural Academic Excellence (DEI) and the Office of Academic Advising (UGS).

According to her author's website, she "held leadership positions in social justice organizations as a teen and in college. She’s now a college administrator who maintains civic engagement throughout the community while also mentoring Black student activists and leaders. She is also the graduate advisor and member of an historically Black sorority [Alpha Kappa Alpha]. This Is My America is her debut novel and explores racial injustice against innocent Black men who are criminally sentenced and the families left behind to pick up the pieces. She holds degrees from the University of Oregon and the University of Maryland, College Park."

Kimberly Johnson discusses Anti-Racism

As part of a Faculty Perspectives video series, "Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Advising Kimberly Johnson discuss[es] the role of transformative education and how campus civic engagement influenced her debut novel, 'This is My America,' and its themes around systematic racism and America's criminal justice system, as told from the lens of 17-year old Tracy Beaumont."

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This guide has a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) License.

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This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.

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