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Yusef Salaam working on novel about wrongful imprisonment

The cover of "Punching the Air" by Ibi

The cover of "Punching the Air" by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam, and Salaam appear in a composite image. Credit: Composite: Balzer + Bray via AP, left; AP / Chris Pizzello

One of the former “Central Park Five” is teaming with an acclaimed children's author on a young adult novel with a personal theme — being wrongfully sentenced to prison.

Yusef Salaam and author Ibi Zoboi are working together on “Punching the Air,” according to Bray + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children's Books. The book comes out Sept. 1.

Salaam was among five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were coerced into confessing to a rape they didn’t commit in 1989. They were exonerated in 2002, but not before all had served prison time. They later received a multimillion-dollar settlement from the City of New York. Ken Burns made a documentary about them and Ava DuVernay directed a Netflix series.

“Punching the Air” tells of a gifted, but troublesome teen, Amal Shahid, who is convicted of a crime he didn't commit.

“ `Punching the Air' reflects not only my story, but the stories of millions of young boys and girls of color who face the injustice of mass incarceration and the criminal justice system," Salaam said in a statement Tuesday.

Zoboi's books include “Pride" and “American Street,” a National Book Award finalist in 2017 for young people's literature. She and Salaam met while both were attending Hunter College in 1999.

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