I Am Alfonso Jones

By Publishers Weekly

Readers might feel that Harlem high school student Alfonso Jones is almost too good: he studies hard and always returns from his bike messenger rounds promptly so his mother doesn’t worry. But when he goes downtown with his crush to buy a new suit, a cop mistakes the clothes hanger he’s holding for a gun and kills him. Readers who wondered at Alfonso’s saintliness now watch as the media and justice system rush to vilify him. Alfonso, meanwhile, finds himself on a ghost train with his ancestors, other victims of police killings who share his agony and offer comfort. Enlivened by high-voltage sequential artwork from Robinson and Jennings, Medina (I and I Bob Marley) takes on a host of difficult questions. A hip-hop Hamlet created in Alfonso’s English class frames his experience as ghostly murder victim. Alfonso’s father, incarcerated for years, has just been exonerated; his triumphant return was the occasion for the suit purchase. At the story’s heart is Alfonso’s mother’s plea: if the officer’s school had taught him more about the world, she mourns, he might have seen Alfonso “as a teenager... as an American, as a human."