I Am Alfonso Jones

By The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Alfonso Jones is preparing to celebrate his father’s release from prison after DNA evidence has proved the man innocent of assaulting a woman passenger in his taxi years ago. A new suit is in order, but while Alfonso is out shopping with his girl- friend, Danetta, bullets rip through him and suddenly he’s a passenger on a ghost train filled with the “ancestors” he is now doomed to join—persons of color who were killed by white policemen and now wait for justice. In the aftermath of the killing, the ancestors help Alfonso reconstruct the facts; Alfonso tries to see into the mind and heart of his killer and to comfort his own mother; his classmates try to make meaning of the tragedy through a contemporary rendering of Hamlet (in which Alfonso was to have a role); and the machinery of police/politicians/media grinds through yet another depressingly familiar round of justifications. A grieving mother with a message will be trapped into crying on camera; Alfonso’s character will be called into question; protesters will march; the off-duty policeman who claims to have mistaken a suit hanger for a gun will be exonerated; and the cycle is set to repeat. If readers pick up this graphic novel, with its edgy black and white artwork spilling rapidly from one visual genre to the next, looking for a bit of urban grit laced with a few squeaks of outrage, they will find instead an argument that cuts right past the polite give-and-take of community policing issues to the urgency of the Black Lives Matter call for immediate justice without excuses. Even Alfonso’s grandfather, an esteemed community member whose activism dates to his days with Malcolm X, gets schooled in using social media to engage a new generation in a fight they intend to put an end to. Unapologetic about its anger, this title will resonate with readers for whom “No justice, no peace” is more than a meme.