Dodd Impact’s 2021 Malka Penn Award honors This is My America

Dodd Impact Malka Penn Award 2021 This is my america

Author Kim Johnson’s debut novel features
young readers take a critical look at justice in America

Hailed by critics for his crucial look at justice in the United States, This is my america by author Kim Johnson was recognized as the 2021 recipient of the Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature, presented by Dodd Human Rights Impact at UConn.

“Kim Johnson delivered a compelling story that addresses human rights issues related to historic racism, corruption, police brutality and incarceration at a critical time in our society,” said Glenn Mitoma, Director of Dodd Human Rights Impact. “We are honored to recognize his work and the important message that This is my america brings young people who live in the midst of fighting systemic racism and who are fighting to redefine what fairness really means in the United States.

Published in 2020, This is my america, a compelling young adult debut novel by Johnson, tells the story of 17-year-old Tracy Beaumont, whose father is on death row for a murder he didn’t commit. Every week, she writes letters to Innocence X, imploring them to take up her father’s case. When her brother then becomes a murder suspect, she sets out to uncover the truth behind the crimes and reveal the roots of prejudice in the American justice system.

The producers recently announced that This is my america is in development for television for HBO Max.

The Malka Penn Prize is awarded annually to the author of an outstanding children’s book addressing human rights issues or themes, such as discrimination, equity, poverty, justice, war , peace, slavery or freedom.

Named in honor of author Michele Palmer – who writes under the pseudonym Malka Penn – the award recognizes works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memory or biography and written for kindergarten children in high school. Special attention is given to the stories of people who have been touched by social injustices and who, by facing these injustices, have made a difference in their lives or in the lives of others.

A 2021 Malka Penn Award ceremony, featuring Johnson as well as a professional development workshop on anti-racism through literature, will be held on Tuesday, November 2, 2021 at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center on the UConn Storrs campus .

In addition to This is my america, the Malka Penn Prize committee recognized the following selections as its 2021 honor books:

All that is sad is wrong, by Daniel Nayeri – In this autobiographical novel, Khosru, a 12-year-old refugee from Iran, forced to flee with his mother and sister, is now a college student in Oklahoma. Recognizing that he is perceived as “super weird” by his classmates, he defends himself through storytelling, revealing his family history and the history of his homeland to the increasingly captivated audience of his classmates and his parents. teachers.

Mexico: a story of refugees from the Spanish Civil War, by Maria José Ferrada and illustrated by Ana Penyas – Imaginative and expressive, Mexico tells the story of Los Niños de Morelia – the displaced children of the Spanish Civil War who, in 1937, boarded the ship Mexico bound for Mexico and what their parents hoped would be safety – through the perspective of a child on board the boat.

Dear Justyce, by Nic Stone – Two boys from the same neighborhood, with a common love of reading and hope for the future, find themselves on two different paths.

Get up! Speak!, by Andrew Joyner – A picture book that shares the steps readers can take to be a climate activist, Get up! Speak! is a quick read that’s perfect for starting to engage kids in climate justice and activism.

Nana Akua goes to school, by Tricia Elam Walker and April Harrison – Zura worries about her classmates ‘reaction to her grandmother, who has tribal markings on her face, at Grandparents’ Day at school. Nana Akua is a beautifully written story about diversity and acceptance.

The Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature is presented by Dodd Human Rights Impact, which works through research, education, advocacy and engagement to foster a culture of human rights in UConn, Connecticut and around the world.

For more information on Dodd Impact, visit

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