Both the YA novel and its audiobook will be available for purchase on Sept. 1.

By Rosy Cordero
July 28, 2020 at 12:00 PM EDT
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Actor Ethan Herisse is once again helping to spread Dr. Yusef Salaam's message, as he did while portraying him in Ava DuVernay's highly lauded When They See Us.

Herisse will voice the audiobook for Salaam's YA novel Punching the Air, his collaboration with National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi set to debut on Sept. 1.

The book follows Amal Shahid, a Black, Muslim teenager who has always been an artist and a poet. One fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy, and Amal 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.

HarperCollins

“It’s a pretty important and incredible read," Herisse tells EW exclusively in a statement. "This is the first audiobook that I’ve ever recorded, so that’s really exciting. The fact that it’s a story that’s co-written by Yusef — that’s also incredibly exciting. Being able to read his words, it’s an honor.”

Salaam is one of the five members of the exonerated "Central Park Five," who were wrongfully indicted for the sexual assault of a Central Park jogger in New York City when they were teens in 1989. All five — Salaam, Raymond Santana, Antron McCray, Korey Wise, and Kevin Richardson — served their full prison sentences before finally having their convictions vacated in 2002.

Staci Nurse; Joseph Zoboi

Punching the Air reflects not only my story, but the stories of millions of young boys and girls of color who face the injustice of mass incarceration and the criminal justice system," Salaam says. "Books have the power to change the way we think and transform societies. This novel is a continuation of my work to shine a light on the reality of our criminal justice system and inspire young people to advocate for change.”

Adds Zoboi, “At the center of Amal’s story is the cycle of racial violence that continues to plague this country. But this is not just a story about a crime or race. It’s about the power of art, faith, and transcendence in the most debilitating circumstances.”

Go behind-the-scenes with Herisse as he steps into the sound booth to record the audiobook in the video above.

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