I AM ALFONSO JONES

Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson (Illustrator) & John Jennings (Illustrator)

Alfonso Jones can’t wait to play the role of Hamlet in his school’s hip-hop rendition of the classic Shakespearean play. He also wants to let his best friend, Danetta, know how he really feels about her. But as he is buying his first suit, an off-duty police officer mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun, and he shoots Alfonso.

When Alfonso wakes up in the afterlife, he’s on a ghost train guided by well-known victims of police shootings, who teach him what he needs to know about this subterranean spiritual world. Meanwhile, Alfonso’s family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice for Alfonso in the streets.

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Alfonso Jones can’t wait to play the role of Hamlet in his school’s hip-hop rendition of the classic Shakespearean play. He also wants to let his best friend, Danetta, know how he really feels about her. But as he is buying his first suit, an off-duty police officer mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun, and he shoots Alfonso.

When Alfonso wakes up in the afterlife, he’s on a ghost train guided by well-known victims of police shootings, who teach him what he needs to know about this subterranean spiritual world. Meanwhile, Alfonso’s family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice for Alfonso in the streets. As they confront their new realities, both Alfonso and those he loves realize the work that lies ahead in the fight for justice.

In the first graphic novel for young readers to focus on police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, as in Hamlet, the dead shall speak—and the living yield even more surprises.

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  • Tu Books
  • Paperback
  • October 2017
  • 176 Pages
  • 9781620142639

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$18.95

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About Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson (Illustrator) & John Jennings (Illustrator)

Tony Medina is the author of six beloved books for young readers, as well as multiple volumes of poetry for adults. A Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and a professor of creative writing at Howard University, Dr. Medina lives in the Washington, DC area.

Stacey Robinson is an assistant professor of graphic design at the University of Illinois and an Arthur Schomburg Fellow with an MFA from the University at Buffalo. He lives in Illinois.

John Jennings is the illustrator of the New York Times-bestselling graphic novel adaptation of Kindred by Octavia Butler. He is a professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside, and the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellowship at Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research. He lives in California.

Praise

“Incredibly enlightening.” —Nikki Giovanni

I can’t say enough how important, beautiful, heartbreaking, and tremendous a book this is. Read it. Gift it to a young person in your life. Shout it from the rooftops. I Am Alfonso Jones is a crucial part of the conversation and it demands to be heard.”Daniel José Older, author of Shadowshaper

“Medina, Robinson, and Jennings do for us what the ghosts do for Alfonso in their story. They help us to see. They help us to remember. They help us to understand.”Gene Luen Yang, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and author of American Born Chinese

Discussion Questions

1. Why does the author begin with the climax? What impact does this have on the story?

2. Alfonso’s story is told in a nonlinear fashion. What insights does this offer into his life and character? Why might the author have chosen to tell Alfonso’s story in this way?

3. How do the elements of class, gender, and race play out in Alfonso’s life? How are these elements connected to the Black Lives Matter movement?

4. Why do you think the graphic novel format was used to tell this story? What do readers gain by experiencing the story visually as well as through words?

5. The book begins with a quotation from Hamlet, and Hamlet is woven into many parts of the story. Why do you think Hamlet was chosen? What parallels do you see between Hamlet’s story and Alfonso’s?

6. How does the author draw from recent events and history to build Alfonso’s story? Do you think this story is a realistic portrayal of current events? Why or why not?

7. What message does this story send about the way the media sensationalizes information? How are Alfonso’s family and friends impacted by the media coverage of his death?

8. Why was Alfonso’s father put in jail, and how is Alfonso’s life trajectory altered as a result? What about his mother’s life?

9. After Alfonso is killed, he ends up on a train. Why is he there, and who is with him? What do you think needs to happen for Alfonso and his friends’ train journey to end?

10. How is the police officer who killed Alfonso portrayed in the book? Do you think he feels remorse? Why or why not?

11. After Alfonso dies, Danetta starts organizing protests. What impact does this have on Danetta? How does receiving Alfonso’s letter change her?

12. What is the significance of the title, I Am Alfonso Jones? How does the Black Lives Matter movement give Alfonso a voice?

13. Do you feel that the ending is hopeful? Why or why not? What role do we have as readers in this story?