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Yusef Salaam biography

Author Biography  | Interview  | Books by this Author  | Read-Alikes

Yusef Salaam

Yusef Salaam

Yusef Salaam Biography

Dr. Yusef Salaam was just fifteen years old when his life was upended after being wrongly convicted with four other boys in the "Central Park jogger" case. In 2002, after the young men spent years of their lives behind bars, their sentences were overturned. Now known as the Exonerated Five, their story has been documented in the award-winning film The Central Park Five by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon and in Ava DuVernay's highly acclaimed series When They See Us. Yusef is now a poet, activist, and inspirational speaker. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama, among other honors. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Sanovia, and their children.



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Interview

A note from Dr. Yusef Salaam on his book Punching the Air, poetry, and his own wrongful conviction.

When I initially started writing, it was because, like many young brothers, I wanted to be a hip-hop artist. I had been writing rhymes since I was eleven or twelve years old. The "Central Park Five jogger" case happened in 1989, during an era in music when message-driven hip-hop songs were hot. Self Destruction, KRS-One's Love's Gonna Get'cha, and Public Enemy were some of the artists and songs that were shaping my style as a writer and were essentially the soundtrack of my life. I especially gravitated toward Public Enemy, who came out with a flow that sounded less like rap and more like a speech.

When I was convicted, it was the start of me realizing that I needed to say something. I wondered how I was going to speak my truth. For the first time, I realized that this art form I had been honing since childhood, hip-hop, was going to allow me to get my message across at this most critical point in my life.

On the day I was convicted, I remember being in and out of the courtroom. I had my shades on, head up, trying to feel and look confident, trying to be strong in the face of a very serious situation. At the same time, and still after everything we had already been through, I'd held out hope that the system would not fail us,...

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Books by this Author

Books by Yusef Salaam at BookBrowse
Punching the Air jacket
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Read-Alikes

All the books below are recommended as read-alikes for Yusef Salaam but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose read-alikes

  • Laurie Halse Anderson

    Laurie Halse Anderson

    Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous international, national, and state ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Punching the Air

    Try:
    Shout
    by Laurie Halse Anderson

  • Curtis Dawkins

    Curtis Dawkins

    Curtis Dawkins grew up in rural Illinois and earned an MFA in fiction writing at Western Michigan University. He has struggled with alcohol and substance abuse through most of his life and, during a botched home robbery, ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Punching the Air

    Try:
    The Graybar Hotel
    by Curtis Dawkins

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