“Activist Johnson’s powerful debut is a timely testimony that echoes the social realities behind today’s #BlackLivesMatter protests.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

Kim Johnson has a rich history of leadership, beginning with her early roles in social justice organizations during her teen years and throughout college. Her passion for creating positive change led her to a distinguished twenty-year career in higher education, where she served in various administrative roles, ultimately becoming a vice provost where she advanced equity and access. Today, she is a renowned author, speaker, and consultant, continuing her mission to inspire and drive change in the world.

Kim writes social thrillers ripped from the headlines tackling some of society’s most compelling issues through fast paced character driven stories. Her bestselling novel, This Is My America, won numerous 2021 accolades, including the Pacific Northwest Book Award and Malka Penn Human Rights Award for Children’s Literature. Her second novel, Invisible Son, was a 2023 LA Times Book Award Finalist for young adult literature. Both novels were selected as NPR Best Books and Kirkus Best Books. The Color of a Lie is her first historical thriller.

She holds degrees from the University of Oregon, University of Maryland, College Park, and an MFA from Oregon State University Cascades. She now lives in the Washington D.C area.

Kim's Featured Titles

The Color of a Lie

Random House Books for Young Readers |
Teen and Young Adult

In 1955, a Black family passes for white and moves to a “Whites Only” town in the suburbs. Caught between two worlds, a teen boy puts his family at risk as he uncovers racist secrets about his suburb. A new social justice thriller from the acclaimed author of This Is My America!

Calvin knows how to pass for white. He’s done it plenty of times before. For his friends in Chicago, when they wanted food but weren’t allowed in a restaurant. For work, when he and his dad would travel for the Green Book.

This is different.

After a tragedy in Chicago forces the family to flee, they resettle in an idyllic all-white suburban town in search of a better life. Calvin’s father wants everyone to embrace their new white lifestyles, but it’s easier said than done. Hiding your true self is exhausting — which leads Calvin across town where he can make friends who know all of him…and spend more time with his new crush, Lily. But when Calvin starts unraveling dark secrets about the white town and its inhabitants, passing starts to feel even more suffocating–and dangerous–than he could have imagined.

Expertly weaving together real historical events with important reflections on being Black in America, acclaimed author Kim Johnson powerfully connects readers to the experience of being forced to live a life-threatening lie or embrace an equally deadly truth.

Invisible Son

Random House Books for Young Readers |
Teen and Young Adult

From the award-winning and critically acclaimed author of This Is My America comes another thriller about a wrongly accused teen desperate to recclaim both his innocence and his first love.

Life can change in an instant.
When you’re wrongfully accused of a crime.
When a virus shuts everything down.
When the girl you love moves on.

Andre Jackson is determined to reclaim his identity. But returning from juvie doesn’t feel like coming home. His Portland, Oregon, neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying, and COVID-19 shuts down school before he can return. And Andre’s suspicions about his arrest for a crime he didn’t commit even taint his friendships. It’s as if his whole life has been erased.

The one thing Andre is counting on is his relationship with the Whitaker kids—especially his longtime crush, Sierra. But Sierra’s brother Eric is missing, and the facts don’t add up as their adoptive parents fight to keep up the act that their racially diverse family is picture-perfect. If Andre can find Eric, he just might uncover the truth about his own arrest. But in a world where power is held by a few and Andre is nearly invisible, searching for the truth is a dangerous game.

Critically acclaimed author Kim Johnson delivers another social justice thriller that shines a light on being young and Black in America—perfect for fans of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Dear Justyce by Nic Stone.

This Is My America

Random House Books for Young Readers |
Teen and Young Adult

The Hate U Give meets Just Mercy in this unflinching yet uplifting first novel that explores the racist injustices in the American justice system.

Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time–her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?

Fans of Nic Stone, Tiffany D. Jackson, and Jason Reynolds won’t want to miss this provocative and gripping debut.


Engaging with Social Issues Through Storytelling

This hour-long interactive session aims to empower readers and writers to use their interests as a means of advocacy and social change. Drawing from my own work and tailored to your organization, I will discuss how fictional stories can connect to real-world social justice issues, the importance of historical context in writing along with methods for incorporating it effectively. Along with options to discuss strategies for engaging with communities through writing and reading, creating partnerships that promote social justice and community involvement.


Incorporating Real-World Issues into Fiction

This hour-long interactive session focuses on integrating real-world social, political, and environmental issues into your fiction. Discover methods for researching current and historical topics and weaving them seamlessly into your storyline. We’ll cover how to balance fact and fiction, ensuring your story remains compelling while addressing important topics. offers essential tips and strategies for refining your writing.


Writing and Revising: Mastering Storytelling

This hour-long interactive session offers essential tips and strategies for refining your writing. We’ll cover self-editing techniques to sharpen character voices and maintain narrative consistency, the process of seeking and incorporating feedback, and effective rewriting strategies to enhance character development and storytelling. The session includes interactive elements, such as live writing exercises or journal activities, to help you apply these techniques and improve your craft.


Storytelling Through Research: Bringing Authenticity to Your Writing

Learn how to find reliable sources, verify historical facts, and incorporate them into your narrative. We’ll also discuss how to balance historical accuracy with creative storytelling, bringing past eras to life in a way that resonates with modern readers. Learn how to research different professions, psychological traits, and cultural backgrounds to create well-rounded, believable characters. We’ll discuss practical tips for interviewing experts, using online resources, and avoiding stereotypes.


Radical Acts of Courage: Transformative Leadership


Social Justice and Diverse Storytelling


Writing Thrillers That Center Justice

THIS IS MY AMERICA Discussion Guide Link

Honors, Awards & Recognition


Malka Penn Award for Childrens Human Rights in Children’s Literature 2021
Florida Teens Read NOMINEE 2021
Missouri Gateway Readers Award NOMINEE 2022
Oklahoma Book Award NOMINEE 2022
Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award NOMINEE 2021
Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year SELECTION 2021
Kansas State Reading Circle Award SELECTION 2020
Notable Books for a Global Society Award SELECTION 2021
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults SELECTION 2021
Pacific Northwest Book Award 2021
Project Lit Book Club Pick Selection 2020
Publishers Weekly Bestseller
Indie Books Bestseller


LA Times Book Award Finalist
Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Books SELECTION 2023
Project Lit Book Club Pick SELECTION 2024

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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