Jason Reynolds, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen books for young readers. His book, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, a collaboration with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, and his bestselling stories, such as Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks, All American Boys (with Brendan Kiely), Long Way Down, and Miles Morales-Spiderman make him “one of the most exciting, constantly surprising voices in children’s literature.”
Q&A with young adult author Martha Brockenbrough.
Reynolds found inspiration in rap to begin writing poetry at nine years old. He focused on poetry for approximately the next two decades, only reading a novel cover to cover at age seventeen, a fact that he is fervidly transparent about. Reynolds empathizes with young people who are averse to reading. He writes in the “About” section of his website, “I know there are a lot—a lot—of young people who hate reading. I know that many of these book haters are boys. I know that many of these book-hating boys, don’t actually hate books, they hate boredom.”
Part of Reynold’s mission is to make reading more exciting, by producing engaging and accessible work, as well as highlighting the relationships between pop culture and literary culture. In an article by Nora Krug from the Washington Post, Krug quotes Reynolds as he discusses this issue: “Kids need to see the relationship between pop culture and high culture—the connections, for example, among Shakespeare, West Side Story and Twilight.”
The recipient of a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, an NAACP Image Award, and multiple Coretta Scott King honors, Reynolds is also the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and has appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Late Night with Seth Meyers, CBS This Morning, and Good Morning America. He is on faculty at Lesley University, for the Writing for Young People MFA Program, and lives in Washington, DC.
Reynolds will release his first book for adults, entitled The Mouthless God and Jesus Number Two, in 2022. His most recent book for young readers is Ain’t Burned All the Bright, with artwork by Jason Griffin.
Martha Brockenbrough, our moderator for the evening, is the author of fiction and nonfiction for young readers. A Washington state book award winner and Kirkus prize finalist, she is the co-chair of faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.