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A Knock at Midnight

A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom

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LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE FINALIST • NAACP IMAGE AWARD NOMINEE • A “powerful and devastating” (The Washington Postcall to free those buried alive by America’s legal system, and an inspiring true story about unwavering belief in humanity—from a gifted young lawyer and important new voice in the movement to transform the system.

“An essential book for our time . . . Brittany K. Barnett is a star.”—Van Jones, CEO of REFORM Alliance, CNN Host, and New York Times bestselling author 

Brittany K. Barnett was only a law student when she came across the case that would change her life forever—that of Sharanda Jones, single mother, business owner, and, like Brittany, Black daughter of the rural South. A victim of America’s devastating war on drugs, Sharanda had been torn away from her young daughter and was serving a life sentence without parole—for a first-time drug offense. In Sharanda, Brittany saw haunting echoes of her own life, as the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother. As she studied this case, a system came into focus in which widespread racial injustice forms the core of America’s addiction to incarceration. Moved by Sharanda’s plight, Brittany set to work to gain her freedom.
 
This had never been the plan. Bright and ambitious, Brittany was a successful accountant on her way to a high-powered future in corporate law. But Sharanda’s case opened the door to a harrowing journey through the criminal justice system. By day she moved billion-dollar deals, and by night she worked pro bono to free clients in near hopeless legal battles. Ultimately, her path transformed her understanding of injustice in the courts, of genius languishing behind bars, and the very definition of freedom itself.

Brittany’s riveting memoir is at once a coming-of-age story and a powerful evocation of what it takes to bring hope and justice to a system built to resist them both.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY KIRKUS REVIEWS
© Cyndi Brown
Brittany K. Barnett is an award-winning attorney and entrepreneur focused on social impact investing. She is dedicated to transforming the criminal justice system and has won freedom for numerous clients serving life sentences for federal drug offenses—seven of whom received executive clemency from President Barack Obama. Brittany has founded several nonprofits and social enterprises, such as XVI Capital Partners, Milena Reign LLC, the Buried Alive Project, and Girls Embracing Mothers. She has earned many honors, including being named one of America's most Outstanding Young Lawyers by the American Bar Association. View titles by Brittany K. Barnett

Chapter 1 

Dear Mama

Mama was always heavy-handed, and I was tender-headed. I’d sit between her legs on the worn rust-brown shag carpet separating my bare legs from the cool cement floor of our old wooden house in Fulbright, Texas, trying to hold in my protest as she dipped the brush in water to pull through my thick hair. Mama’s hands, cool on the side of my head and ear, smelled of Blue Magic hair grease, and I relished the touch of her palm even as I squirmed from the comb. “Hand me that barrette, Britt,” Mama would say, and I’d reach into our pink hair box for the red one I knew she meant. Jazmine—or Jazz, as we called my little sister—would be dancing her carefree self around the TV, pantomiming the Tom and Jerry carnage playing out on the screen, her hair already combed in perfect pink barrettes that matched her short set, red with pink flowers, lace on the straps. It might have been the last time in her life she’d look so girly without a fight, but at four, she wore it well. As soon as Mama finished torturing my head we’d be free to go sit outside on the faded porch swing and eat sweet plums from Aunt Opal’s tree across the road, the best spot in the whole town of Fulbright to catch a breeze in that sweltering Texas midsummer heat.

My mom was a tall, long-waisted, young Black woman with the deep-set paisley eyes and the high, full cheekbones of her Filipina and half-Cherokee grandmothers. Her skin shone like a burnished penny, and her glossy black hair framed her face in a perfect curly halo. Physically, she was striking—an exotic beauty of Hunt County. Even when she was a small girl, her biting wit and sharp-tongued fury could not be contained. Before adolescence, other kids mocked her “Chinese” eyes and bony frame; when she grew into herself, the attention from men of all ages was both blessing and curse. She cultivated a tough exterior. In photos, she’s always giving the camera side-eye, jaw set, lips a flat line. Even then she’s gorgeous. Too much for her small town, for her small world, a world made smaller by my arrival when she was only eighteen, and Jazz’s a year later.

Mama had grown up with her mother in Greenville, notorious even in the South for the sign that stretched across its main street for decades: welcome to greenville: the blackest land and the whitest people. Though some would claim that “the whitest people” referred to the moral purity of Greenville’s citizens, Black folks from inside and outside the town knew the truth. Mama’s mama, who I called Granny, was named after Ida B. Wells, and she was as fierce and loving as her namesake. A prayer warrior, she was a straight shooter who would tell you exactly what was on her mind, regardless of whether you were ready to hear it. My mother took after her in temperament. Always willful, Mama took pride in controlling her own destiny—nobody could tell Evelyn Fulbright what to do. Greenville schools didn’t reward precocious intelligence in young Black girls, and Mama played the rebel more than the achiever. Still, at seventeen she scored extra high on the entrance exam for a basic training and airborne program at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, which would have led to a year in Germany and the nursing training she desired. Then I came along.

I was born in 1984 when both my parents were still living with their own parents. Mama was seventeen when she got pregnant with me, and Daddy just sixteen, a sophomore in high school. Mama says that Daddy was “mesmerized” when they met in the Greenville park where she held court with her friends, seniors to my daddy’s crew of gangly sophomore boys. She had a barely healed divot under her eye from her latest fight and shorts that showed every inch of her long brown legs. Daddy was indeed struck dumb, by the force of her character as much as her uncommon beauty. “All I wanted was to see her smile,” he would say. “Prettiest woman you ever saw, but boy did she act mean!”

Mama joked that when she saw that handsome young Barnett boy drive through the park in Greenville she’d have been a fool not to fall for him. Leland Barnett drove a brand-new Z28 with the T-top, flashing his gap-toothed smile from beneath his Michael Jackson curl, a perfect single twist on his forehead just like on the Thriller cover. Everyone knew my daddy’s family, the only Black family in all of Campbell, a small town about fifteen minutes’ drive from Greenville, with six handsome brothers and a real pretty piece of land. My daddy’s daddy had picked cotton and had only a third-grade education, but he managed to build one of the most successful cement contracting businesses in the area. He also owned Sudie’s, a thriving after-supper club in nearby Commerce. And here came my daddy, fine as could be, earnest and smart and with the exact opposite personality as Mama. He met her hot temper and sharp tongue with a sweet smile and calm demeanor, her extroverted sass with shy introversion, her decisive action with his languid dreams. They fell for each other hard, in that first flush, can’t-tell-nobody-nothing kind of love.

That’s the kind of love that burns out fast, especially under the pressure of two newborns. Mama entered the deferred enrollment program for Fort Jackson, but she was reluctant to be away from me, her first baby. Granny told her, “That little black-eyed pea don’t want to go to no Germany!” So Mama relented.

Jazz was born a year after me, and by the time she was a year old my mom and dad’s relationship was all but over. For the next year we bounced around within a ten-mile radius in Hunt County, Texas, between Granny’s house in Greenville and my dad’s family home in Campbell, under the loving care of our dad’s mom, Mama Lena. Mama appreciated the help, but she wanted out from under all of it—away from her mama’s house, away from Hunt County, and especially away from my dad’s new girlfriend. So when Mama’s daddy, Pa-Pa, offered to fix up the old house he’d grown up in for us, it was a big deal for her—a chance, finally, for my headstrong, independent mother to be on her own with her girls.

Pa-Pa’s own daddy had built that house with his two hands, and by the time we moved in, it had seen better days. Still, it was ours. Pine trees grew out back, and the sky was sharp with electricity during tornado season. Fireflies delighted us on summer nights, and torrential downpours turned the red earth redder, releasing everywhere the sweet smell of new growth so potent it permeated our clothes drying on the line. Despite the cement floors and bare bulbs, the thick plastic nailed over windows for insulation in the winters and the pipes that froze all winter long, we had joy in that house, and so much love.

Pa-Pa’s family constituted more than a quarter of Fulbright’s one hundred fifty residents, and most of us lived on that same two-mile stretch of Fulbright Road—not quite dirt but not quite paved either, the old blacktop crumbling back into the rich soil. We were the first house you’d come to if you turned up that road, a little ways after the old church where we’d go some Sundays, gospel hymns shaking the wooden floorboards. My cousin Charla lived across from us with my great-aunt Mary Ann, and a few paces down the road my great-aunt Opal made my favorite plum jelly from the massive trees in her front yard. Just around the bend my great-grandmother, Mama Toni, tended her flowers and cooked up sweet rice with carnation milk and sugar from her family’s recipe in the Philippines. Across the road from her was Pa-Pa’s house, my grandfather Edward, who worked in the coal mine. Pa-Pa’s cattle and horses grazed in the fields around the house, and in the summer he and Uncle Willie would be in the field all day with their rumbling tractor, pitching hay that fell loose from the fresh rolled bales. There we all were—descendants of Fulbrights, living on Fulbright land in a town that bore our mama’s name. There was rich history in that small East Texas town. We knew we could knock on any of those family doors on Fulbright Road if we needed to. And we knew we had a proud, hard-working mother, who dressed every weekend in the white nurse’s uniform she’d bought secondhand at a store in neighboring Lamar County and starched and ironed until it looked almost new.

The year was 1988 and my mother was only twenty-three, with two toddlers underfoot. Though she’d given up her dreams of the military, she was determined to make something of herself. She attended nursing school all day in Paris, Texas, through the week and worked the evening shift Thursday through Sunday as an aide in a nursing home. Mama would carry us to the car, asleep, and when she knelt by the backseat to wake us and usher us into daycare, it would still be pitch black, no other children there but us.

When Mama’s financial aid package got cut as part of President Reagan’s austerity program that closed several hospitals in the area and cut drug treatment programs, childcare initiatives, and education, daycare was no longer an option. Without daycare, Mama’s future was in jeopardy. Mama Lena offered to take us, but Evelyn wasn’t having it. “They’re my girls, Lena,” she said. “I’ll figure out a way.” And with grit and determination, she did.

First-Year Reading (FYR) Guide for A Knock at Midnight

Designed specifically to be used by faculty or program facilitators for college First-Year Common Reading programs.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

  • WINNER | 2021
    Christopher Award - Books for Adults
  • NOMINEE | 2021
    NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work
  • FINALIST | 2021
    L.A. Times Book Prize (Current Interest)
“For a young lawyer, Brittany Barnett has a lot of war stories. In A Knock at Midnight, Barnett’s engrossing memoir, most of the stories involve Black women who are casualties of the war on drugs. . . . [Barnett’s] vignettes about the lives of women in the ‘New Jim Crow’ era are powerful and devastating.”—The Washington Post

“A Knock at Midnight 
isn’t your ordinary memoir. It carries the force of urgent action, and it calls attention to sentencing laws that must be read to be believed. Most important, it bears the toil and triumph of freedom hard won. That’s a quality that readers will have a hard time taking for granted after reading these pages.”Houston Chronicle

A Knock at Midnight is a book that is just right for this smoldering moment, a memoir that offers an irresistible invitation to examine the evolution and the impact of injustice in America.”—Michele Norris, contributing columnist at The Washington Post and founding director of The Race Card Project

“With a penetrating honesty, Brittany K. Barnett masterfully unlocks the mysterious doors of the prison system, revealing a long tradition of racial injustice and inequality. In the spirit of great films like Ava DuVernay’s 13th, A Knock at Midnight is both an educational tool and a call to action that will leave readers enlightened and inspired for years to come.”—Shaka Senghor, author of Writing My Wrongs

“. . . Brittany is a first-rate storyteller. With heartfelt clarity and conviction, she delivers a powerful story of courage and hope, along with a good dose of the messy truth about our nation’s broken criminal justice system. America desperately needs stories just like this one.”—Van Jones, CEO of REFORM Alliance, CNN Host, and New York Times bestselling author

“Brittany’s passion, ambition, hard work, and commitment to excellence have produced an unparalleled record of success at a young age. I have been personally touched by her incredible dedication to advancing justice and her unwavering and selfless dedication to freedom.”—Sean “Diddy” Combs

“ A riveting memoir of injustice, resilience, and hope.”Booklist (starred review)

“A welcome new addition to . . . books about the critically flawed U.S. legal system . . . Considering her youthfulness, [Brittany] Barnett has accomplished more reform than most individuals could accomplish in two lifetimes.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“This is an essential read for anyone seeking to understand the devastating effects of mandatory drug sentencing and looking for inspiration to seek change.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“An engrossing legal drama complete with wrenching reversals and redemptions, this account richly humanizes defendants while incisively analyzing deep flaws in America's justice system.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

What I'm Reading: Brittany K. Barnett (author of A KNOCK AT MIDNIGHT)

Brittany Barnett Explains what drew her to Sharanda Jones

Inside the Book: Brittany K. Barnett (A KNOCK AT MIDNIGHT)

About

LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE FINALIST • NAACP IMAGE AWARD NOMINEE • A “powerful and devastating” (The Washington Postcall to free those buried alive by America’s legal system, and an inspiring true story about unwavering belief in humanity—from a gifted young lawyer and important new voice in the movement to transform the system.

“An essential book for our time . . . Brittany K. Barnett is a star.”—Van Jones, CEO of REFORM Alliance, CNN Host, and New York Times bestselling author 

Brittany K. Barnett was only a law student when she came across the case that would change her life forever—that of Sharanda Jones, single mother, business owner, and, like Brittany, Black daughter of the rural South. A victim of America’s devastating war on drugs, Sharanda had been torn away from her young daughter and was serving a life sentence without parole—for a first-time drug offense. In Sharanda, Brittany saw haunting echoes of her own life, as the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother. As she studied this case, a system came into focus in which widespread racial injustice forms the core of America’s addiction to incarceration. Moved by Sharanda’s plight, Brittany set to work to gain her freedom.
 
This had never been the plan. Bright and ambitious, Brittany was a successful accountant on her way to a high-powered future in corporate law. But Sharanda’s case opened the door to a harrowing journey through the criminal justice system. By day she moved billion-dollar deals, and by night she worked pro bono to free clients in near hopeless legal battles. Ultimately, her path transformed her understanding of injustice in the courts, of genius languishing behind bars, and the very definition of freedom itself.

Brittany’s riveting memoir is at once a coming-of-age story and a powerful evocation of what it takes to bring hope and justice to a system built to resist them both.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY KIRKUS REVIEWS

Author

© Cyndi Brown
Brittany K. Barnett is an award-winning attorney and entrepreneur focused on social impact investing. She is dedicated to transforming the criminal justice system and has won freedom for numerous clients serving life sentences for federal drug offenses—seven of whom received executive clemency from President Barack Obama. Brittany has founded several nonprofits and social enterprises, such as XVI Capital Partners, Milena Reign LLC, the Buried Alive Project, and Girls Embracing Mothers. She has earned many honors, including being named one of America's most Outstanding Young Lawyers by the American Bar Association. View titles by Brittany K. Barnett

Excerpt

Chapter 1 

Dear Mama

Mama was always heavy-handed, and I was tender-headed. I’d sit between her legs on the worn rust-brown shag carpet separating my bare legs from the cool cement floor of our old wooden house in Fulbright, Texas, trying to hold in my protest as she dipped the brush in water to pull through my thick hair. Mama’s hands, cool on the side of my head and ear, smelled of Blue Magic hair grease, and I relished the touch of her palm even as I squirmed from the comb. “Hand me that barrette, Britt,” Mama would say, and I’d reach into our pink hair box for the red one I knew she meant. Jazmine—or Jazz, as we called my little sister—would be dancing her carefree self around the TV, pantomiming the Tom and Jerry carnage playing out on the screen, her hair already combed in perfect pink barrettes that matched her short set, red with pink flowers, lace on the straps. It might have been the last time in her life she’d look so girly without a fight, but at four, she wore it well. As soon as Mama finished torturing my head we’d be free to go sit outside on the faded porch swing and eat sweet plums from Aunt Opal’s tree across the road, the best spot in the whole town of Fulbright to catch a breeze in that sweltering Texas midsummer heat.

My mom was a tall, long-waisted, young Black woman with the deep-set paisley eyes and the high, full cheekbones of her Filipina and half-Cherokee grandmothers. Her skin shone like a burnished penny, and her glossy black hair framed her face in a perfect curly halo. Physically, she was striking—an exotic beauty of Hunt County. Even when she was a small girl, her biting wit and sharp-tongued fury could not be contained. Before adolescence, other kids mocked her “Chinese” eyes and bony frame; when she grew into herself, the attention from men of all ages was both blessing and curse. She cultivated a tough exterior. In photos, she’s always giving the camera side-eye, jaw set, lips a flat line. Even then she’s gorgeous. Too much for her small town, for her small world, a world made smaller by my arrival when she was only eighteen, and Jazz’s a year later.

Mama had grown up with her mother in Greenville, notorious even in the South for the sign that stretched across its main street for decades: welcome to greenville: the blackest land and the whitest people. Though some would claim that “the whitest people” referred to the moral purity of Greenville’s citizens, Black folks from inside and outside the town knew the truth. Mama’s mama, who I called Granny, was named after Ida B. Wells, and she was as fierce and loving as her namesake. A prayer warrior, she was a straight shooter who would tell you exactly what was on her mind, regardless of whether you were ready to hear it. My mother took after her in temperament. Always willful, Mama took pride in controlling her own destiny—nobody could tell Evelyn Fulbright what to do. Greenville schools didn’t reward precocious intelligence in young Black girls, and Mama played the rebel more than the achiever. Still, at seventeen she scored extra high on the entrance exam for a basic training and airborne program at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, which would have led to a year in Germany and the nursing training she desired. Then I came along.

I was born in 1984 when both my parents were still living with their own parents. Mama was seventeen when she got pregnant with me, and Daddy just sixteen, a sophomore in high school. Mama says that Daddy was “mesmerized” when they met in the Greenville park where she held court with her friends, seniors to my daddy’s crew of gangly sophomore boys. She had a barely healed divot under her eye from her latest fight and shorts that showed every inch of her long brown legs. Daddy was indeed struck dumb, by the force of her character as much as her uncommon beauty. “All I wanted was to see her smile,” he would say. “Prettiest woman you ever saw, but boy did she act mean!”

Mama joked that when she saw that handsome young Barnett boy drive through the park in Greenville she’d have been a fool not to fall for him. Leland Barnett drove a brand-new Z28 with the T-top, flashing his gap-toothed smile from beneath his Michael Jackson curl, a perfect single twist on his forehead just like on the Thriller cover. Everyone knew my daddy’s family, the only Black family in all of Campbell, a small town about fifteen minutes’ drive from Greenville, with six handsome brothers and a real pretty piece of land. My daddy’s daddy had picked cotton and had only a third-grade education, but he managed to build one of the most successful cement contracting businesses in the area. He also owned Sudie’s, a thriving after-supper club in nearby Commerce. And here came my daddy, fine as could be, earnest and smart and with the exact opposite personality as Mama. He met her hot temper and sharp tongue with a sweet smile and calm demeanor, her extroverted sass with shy introversion, her decisive action with his languid dreams. They fell for each other hard, in that first flush, can’t-tell-nobody-nothing kind of love.

That’s the kind of love that burns out fast, especially under the pressure of two newborns. Mama entered the deferred enrollment program for Fort Jackson, but she was reluctant to be away from me, her first baby. Granny told her, “That little black-eyed pea don’t want to go to no Germany!” So Mama relented.

Jazz was born a year after me, and by the time she was a year old my mom and dad’s relationship was all but over. For the next year we bounced around within a ten-mile radius in Hunt County, Texas, between Granny’s house in Greenville and my dad’s family home in Campbell, under the loving care of our dad’s mom, Mama Lena. Mama appreciated the help, but she wanted out from under all of it—away from her mama’s house, away from Hunt County, and especially away from my dad’s new girlfriend. So when Mama’s daddy, Pa-Pa, offered to fix up the old house he’d grown up in for us, it was a big deal for her—a chance, finally, for my headstrong, independent mother to be on her own with her girls.

Pa-Pa’s own daddy had built that house with his two hands, and by the time we moved in, it had seen better days. Still, it was ours. Pine trees grew out back, and the sky was sharp with electricity during tornado season. Fireflies delighted us on summer nights, and torrential downpours turned the red earth redder, releasing everywhere the sweet smell of new growth so potent it permeated our clothes drying on the line. Despite the cement floors and bare bulbs, the thick plastic nailed over windows for insulation in the winters and the pipes that froze all winter long, we had joy in that house, and so much love.

Pa-Pa’s family constituted more than a quarter of Fulbright’s one hundred fifty residents, and most of us lived on that same two-mile stretch of Fulbright Road—not quite dirt but not quite paved either, the old blacktop crumbling back into the rich soil. We were the first house you’d come to if you turned up that road, a little ways after the old church where we’d go some Sundays, gospel hymns shaking the wooden floorboards. My cousin Charla lived across from us with my great-aunt Mary Ann, and a few paces down the road my great-aunt Opal made my favorite plum jelly from the massive trees in her front yard. Just around the bend my great-grandmother, Mama Toni, tended her flowers and cooked up sweet rice with carnation milk and sugar from her family’s recipe in the Philippines. Across the road from her was Pa-Pa’s house, my grandfather Edward, who worked in the coal mine. Pa-Pa’s cattle and horses grazed in the fields around the house, and in the summer he and Uncle Willie would be in the field all day with their rumbling tractor, pitching hay that fell loose from the fresh rolled bales. There we all were—descendants of Fulbrights, living on Fulbright land in a town that bore our mama’s name. There was rich history in that small East Texas town. We knew we could knock on any of those family doors on Fulbright Road if we needed to. And we knew we had a proud, hard-working mother, who dressed every weekend in the white nurse’s uniform she’d bought secondhand at a store in neighboring Lamar County and starched and ironed until it looked almost new.

The year was 1988 and my mother was only twenty-three, with two toddlers underfoot. Though she’d given up her dreams of the military, she was determined to make something of herself. She attended nursing school all day in Paris, Texas, through the week and worked the evening shift Thursday through Sunday as an aide in a nursing home. Mama would carry us to the car, asleep, and when she knelt by the backseat to wake us and usher us into daycare, it would still be pitch black, no other children there but us.

When Mama’s financial aid package got cut as part of President Reagan’s austerity program that closed several hospitals in the area and cut drug treatment programs, childcare initiatives, and education, daycare was no longer an option. Without daycare, Mama’s future was in jeopardy. Mama Lena offered to take us, but Evelyn wasn’t having it. “They’re my girls, Lena,” she said. “I’ll figure out a way.” And with grit and determination, she did.

Guides

First-Year Reading (FYR) Guide for A Knock at Midnight

Designed specifically to be used by faculty or program facilitators for college First-Year Common Reading programs.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

Awards

  • WINNER | 2021
    Christopher Award - Books for Adults
  • NOMINEE | 2021
    NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work
  • FINALIST | 2021
    L.A. Times Book Prize (Current Interest)

Praise

“For a young lawyer, Brittany Barnett has a lot of war stories. In A Knock at Midnight, Barnett’s engrossing memoir, most of the stories involve Black women who are casualties of the war on drugs. . . . [Barnett’s] vignettes about the lives of women in the ‘New Jim Crow’ era are powerful and devastating.”—The Washington Post

“A Knock at Midnight 
isn’t your ordinary memoir. It carries the force of urgent action, and it calls attention to sentencing laws that must be read to be believed. Most important, it bears the toil and triumph of freedom hard won. That’s a quality that readers will have a hard time taking for granted after reading these pages.”Houston Chronicle

A Knock at Midnight is a book that is just right for this smoldering moment, a memoir that offers an irresistible invitation to examine the evolution and the impact of injustice in America.”—Michele Norris, contributing columnist at The Washington Post and founding director of The Race Card Project

“With a penetrating honesty, Brittany K. Barnett masterfully unlocks the mysterious doors of the prison system, revealing a long tradition of racial injustice and inequality. In the spirit of great films like Ava DuVernay’s 13th, A Knock at Midnight is both an educational tool and a call to action that will leave readers enlightened and inspired for years to come.”—Shaka Senghor, author of Writing My Wrongs

“. . . Brittany is a first-rate storyteller. With heartfelt clarity and conviction, she delivers a powerful story of courage and hope, along with a good dose of the messy truth about our nation’s broken criminal justice system. America desperately needs stories just like this one.”—Van Jones, CEO of REFORM Alliance, CNN Host, and New York Times bestselling author

“Brittany’s passion, ambition, hard work, and commitment to excellence have produced an unparalleled record of success at a young age. I have been personally touched by her incredible dedication to advancing justice and her unwavering and selfless dedication to freedom.”—Sean “Diddy” Combs

“ A riveting memoir of injustice, resilience, and hope.”Booklist (starred review)

“A welcome new addition to . . . books about the critically flawed U.S. legal system . . . Considering her youthfulness, [Brittany] Barnett has accomplished more reform than most individuals could accomplish in two lifetimes.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“This is an essential read for anyone seeking to understand the devastating effects of mandatory drug sentencing and looking for inspiration to seek change.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“An engrossing legal drama complete with wrenching reversals and redemptions, this account richly humanizes defendants while incisively analyzing deep flaws in America's justice system.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Media

What I'm Reading: Brittany K. Barnett (author of A KNOCK AT MIDNIGHT)

Brittany Barnett Explains what drew her to Sharanda Jones

Inside the Book: Brittany K. Barnett (A KNOCK AT MIDNIGHT)

PRH Education High School Collections

All reading communities should contain protected time for the sake of reading. Independent reading practices emphasize the process of making meaning through reading, not an end product. The school culture (teachers, administration, etc.) should affirm this daily practice time as inherently important instructional time for all readers. (NCTE, 2019)   The Penguin Random House High

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PRH Education Translanguaging Collections

Translanguaging is a communicative practice of bilinguals and multilinguals, that is, it is a practice whereby bilinguals and multilinguals use their entire linguistic repertoire to communicate and make meaning (García, 2009; García, Ibarra Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017)   It is through that lens that we have partnered with teacher educators and bilingual education experts, Drs.

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PRH Education Classroom Libraries

“Books are a students’ passport to entering and actively participating in a global society with the empathy, compassion, and knowledge it takes to become the problem solvers the world needs.” –Laura Robb   Research shows that reading and literacy directly impacts students’ academic success and personal growth. To help promote the importance of daily independent

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World Day of Social Justice

The United Nations recognizes February 20th as World Day of Social Justice. This year’s theme is a Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy. Read more about the importance of social justice for peace and security in today’s world. We’ve provided a few books centered on social justice issues including disability justice, antiracism and

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Penguin Random House ALA Midwinter Award Winners & Honorees for Secondary Education

The American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter announced their 2021 literary award winners and honorees at its virtual annual meeting. Below you can find which Penguin Random House titles appropriate for Middle School and High School students were among the winners.  To see which Elementary School titles were honored, click here. Printz Honor Every Body Looking

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Our Next Big Ideas Night Centers on the Crucial, Timely Topic of Criminal Justice Reform

Join us on Wednesday, October 21 at 8:00 PM ET on Zoom for a crucial, timely Big Ideas Night on Criminal Justice Reform with a panel of expert authors: Brittany K. Barnett, attorney, entrepreneur, and author of A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom; Emily Bazelon, New York Times Magazine staff writer and author of Charged: The New Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End

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