|Born||December 6, 1983|
|Alma mater||University of Maryland|
|Genre||Young adult fiction|
|Notable awards||Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Award for New Talent |
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teen
Jason Reynolds (born December 6, 1983) is an American author. He writes novels and poetry for young adult and middle-grade audiences, including Ghost, a National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.
Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in neighboring Oxon Hill, Maryland. 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 for the first time at age 17 and publishing several poetry collections before he published his own first novel, When I Was The Greatest, in 2014. He won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for this first work of prose and seven more novels followed in the next four years, including Ghost (2016) and two more books in what became his New York Times best-selling Track series, Patina (2017) and Sunny (2018); As Brave As You (2016), winner of the 2016 Kirkus Prize, the 2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teen, and the 2017 Schneider Family Book Award; and a Marvel Comics novel called Miles Morales: Spider-Man (2017).
Reynolds returned to poetry with Long Way Down (2017), a novel in verse which was named a Newbery Honor book, a Printz Honor Book, and best young adult work by the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Awards.
Early life, education and influences
Reynolds was born on December 6, 1983, in Washington, DC, and grew up just across Maryland border in Oxon Hill, a neighborhood where his mother, a special education teacher in a Maryland public school, could afford a house with a yard and enough space for Reynolds, his three siblings, and sometimes other extended family.
At nine years old, Reynolds was inspired by Queen Latifah's 1993 album Black Reign to start writing poetry. Outside of her rap, few literary works spoke to his experience of urban life growing up as a black child and then teenager in the 1980s and 1990s, and he stopped reading books until he was 17. In the meantime, Tupac and Biggie also formed major influences.
One of Reynolds's earliest poems dealt with his grandmother's death in 1994 when he was 10. He wrote a few lines in an effort to console his mother, who printed the poem on the program for the funeral, and after that Reynolds wrote poems as each of his grandmother's siblings passed. Moved by these experiences of "the power of language", he continued to pursue poetry through high school, graduating from Bishop McNamara High School in 2000, and college, even as he received poor grades and discouragement from professors in his English courses at the University of Maryland (he ultimately graduated with a BA in English.)
While an undergraduate, Reynolds met collaborator Jason Griffin, who became his roommate. Reynolds was also introduced to spoken word in this period and began performing, including eventually solo shows, and in 2001, his first book came out, a poetry collection called Let Me Speak.
During college, Reynolds also worked at a DC bookstore chain called Karibu Books, which specialized in African-American literature. At Karibu he encountered prose that resonated with him for the first time, beginning at age 17 with Richard Wright's novel Black Boy, which Reynolds describes as the first novel he ever read. Enthralled with Wright's novel from the first page, Reynolds next began making his way through the great works of African-American literature on the store's shelves, reading James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, and Toni Morrison. While at Karibu he also encountered street fiction, a genre Reynolds compares to rap's capacity for being "raw and honest. For some kids, this was their life."
Reynolds doesn't start with a particular age audience in mind; instead he focuses on the trying to write the voice of his characters authentically and lets that dictate who the book would appeal to. All of Reynolds' writing feature minority characters, which Reynolds sees as a reflection of the modern world.
After graduating from college, Reynolds moved to New York with a classmate, Jason Griffin; in 2005, the pair self-published a collaboration, collecting Griffin's visual art and Reynolds's poetry, called SELF. The book earned the pair an agent and then a book contract. Four years later they published My Name Is Jason. Mine Too.: Our Story. Our Way, a memoir about moving to New York to pursue their dreams, expressed through Reynolds's poetry and Griffin's illustrations. They published the book with the HarperTeen imprint of HarperCollins, working with editor Joanna Cotler (after Cotler retired, she referred him to Caitlin Dlouhy, who would become the editor on his next seven books). In the meantime, Reynolds moved home to DC in 2008 after losing his apartment in New York. He worked at a department store—the Lord & Taylor in Wheaton, Maryland—to pay the bills, going to a Border's bookstore on his lunch break to see his book arrive on the shelf in 2009. Next he became a caseworker in a mental health clinic his father directed.
Eventually Reynolds returned to New York, again working in retail while he applied to graduate school, unsuccessfully because of his college grades. Nevertheless he began writing a young adult novel—"often while standing at the cash register when business was slow" at the Rag & Bone store he managed—spurred by his friend Chris Myers, son of Walter Dean Myers and himself an author and illustrator. Reynolds had told Chris he had basically stopped writing, but Chris pointed out that with his father aging (the elder Myers died in 2014), there would soon be a shortage of new works written about young black children, particularly black boys. He suggested Reynolds look at some of his father's old works, and The Young Landlords particularly connected with Reynolds; the work gave Reynolds the confidence to "write in my voice, use my tongue, my language, my style, and write a story. Before that I always felt like I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t Baldwin, or Toni Morrison, or Richard Wright," but after reading Myers's work, "the floodgates were opened."
In 2014, Reynolds published When I Was The Greatest (with the Atheneum of Simon & Schuster), a young adult novel set in Reynolds' own neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant. For the work, Reynolds won the 2015 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent from the American Library Association.
All American Boys
Also in 2015, Reynolds published All American Boys, co-authored with Brendan Kiely. The book depicts a black teenager assaulted in a convenience store by a white police officer who wrongly suspected him of stealing. The book is written in two voices, with Reynolds writing from the point of view of the teenaged victim, Rashad Butler, in a hospital bed, while Kiely wrote the character Quinn Collins, a white teenager and family friend of the police officer, who witnessed the violent attack. In a review for The New York Times, Kelka Magoon found both main characters "successfully drawn" and called the novel "a book to be grappled with, challenged by, and discussed. 'All American Boys' represents one voice — even better, two voices — in a national conversation that must continue beyond its pages."
The book arose from personal conversations between Reynolds, who is black, and Kiely, who is white. The two met on a Simon & Schuster book tour in 2013, which coincided with the news that George Zimmerman had been acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin. Though strangers, Reynolds and Kiely began to share their feelings, each finding the other was "as frustrated as angry and as confused as I was", as Reynolds put it. A friendship developed and the conversations continued with increasing urgency; after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, Kiely reached out to Reynolds to propose they write a book addressing police brutality and racial profiling.
As Brave As You
In 2016, Reynolds published As Brave As You, which won the 2016 Kirkus Prize, the 2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teen, the 2017 Schneider Family Book Award, and the 2017 Coretta Scott King Honor. The book describes two African-American brothers from Brooklyn who are sent to spend the summer with their grandfather in Virginia. In The Washington Post, reviewers said, "Reynolds deftly blends humor and heart through lively dialogue and spot-on sibling dynamics."
The Track series follows a different protagonist in each novel, all of whom are members the Defenders, an elite track team. In 2016, Reynolds published Ghost, a National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature. Reviewing Ghost in The New York Times, Kate Messner said that in his title character, Reynolds has created a protagonist "whose journey is so genuine that he’s worthy of a place alongside Ramona and Joey Pigza on the bookshelves where our most beloved, imperfect characters live." Ghost was published by the Caitlyn Dlouhy imprint of Atheneum on August 30, 2016.
Three more books have followed in the series. Patina (2017) depicts another young star runner, Patina "Patty" Jones. Patty feels out of place at her nearly all-white private school. Patty and her younger sister live with their dead father's brother and his white wife because their birth mother is unable to take care of them after losing her legs due to diabetes. Critics noted the deft way the book handles many issues including teamwork and non-traditional family structures. This was the first book Reynolds had written with a female point of view. Reynolds wanted to write about the special burdens some teen girls assume in their families. In his New York Times review, Tom Rinaldi called the novel "excellent". The book was also well received by other reviewers, earning a starred review in Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Horn Book Magazine, and Booklist.
The third installment in the series, called Sunny, was released on April 10, 2018. Paste magazine named the audiobook, narrated by Guy Lockard, one of the 13 best of 2018 to date, saying, "The whole series is a must-listen, but Sunny is a particular treat" thanks to the Lockard's portrayal of the "lolling, goofball voice" of the novel's first-person protagonist.
The fourth installment in the series, called Lu, was released October 23, 2018.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man
Reynolds is the author of Miles Morales: Spider-Man (2017), a novel based on the Marvel Comics' Afro-Puerto Rican teen character. Reynolds has described his ambitions for the book as similar to Jordan Peele's approach to Get Out, namely to engage the audience with systemic social issues by "distill[ing] it down to a single family." Speaking to School Library Journal, Reynolds said, "It was a trip to take these issues I care so much about and figure out what they look like as a person. What do they sound like? How do they dress? How do they act? What do they do?" Reviewing the book for the Washington City Paper, Kayla Randall said, "The result...was exceptional."
Long Way Down
Reynolds's 2017 book, Long Way Down, is a novel written in verse. It describes a 15-year-old who sees his brother shot to death, drawing on Reynolds's experience of having a friend murdered when Reynolds was 19. Reynolds was moved to write the book by his visits to juvenile detention centers, where he frequently encounters children caught in a cycle of violence that, under slightly different circumstances, might have been his own: Reynolds has said that after his own friend's murder, he and other friends planned to seek revenge but never did so as the perpetrator wasn't conclusively identified, something he looked back on and "realized how lucky that was." Long Way Down was named a 2018 Newbery Honor book by the American Library Association, a Printz Honor Book, best young adult work at the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Awards, a Walter Dean Myers Award from the We Need Diverse Books organization, a Coretta Scott King Honor, and a finalist for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens. An adaptation by Martine Kei Green-Rogers of Long Way Down was commissioned by the Kennedy Center and performed at the Kennedy Center's Family Theater in October/November 2018.
For Every One
On April 10, 2018, Reynolds released For Every One, a work of poetry. Two weeks later, Reynolds occupied three slots on The New York Times best-seller lists for children's literature: two on the young adult hardcover list (Long Way Down and For Every One), and one on the children's series list for the Track series.
Reynolds moved back to Washington, DC, from Brooklyn in 2016.
Awards and honors
- 2015: John Steptoe New Talent Award
- 2016: finalist, National Book Award for Young People's Literature
- 2016: Walter Dean Myers Award
- Coretta Scott King Award honor in 2016, 2017, and 2018
- 2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teen
- 2018: Newbery Honor
- 2018: Printz Honor Book
- 2018: finalist, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens
- 2018: Edgar Award, best young adult work
- 2018: Luchs des Jahres (Germany) for Ghost. Jede Menge Leben (Ghost)
- Let Me Speak-- (2001)
- SELF with Jason Griffin (2005)
- My Name Is Jason. Mine Too.: Our Story. Our Way. with illustrations by Jason Griffin (2009)
- When I Was The Greatest (2014)
- The Boy in the Black Suit (2015)
- All American Boys with Brendan Kiely (2015)
- As Brave as You (2016)
- Ghost (Track Book #1) (2016)
- Patina (Track Book #2) (2017)
- Miles Morales: Spider-Man, with illustrations by Kadir Nelson (2017)
- Sunny (Track Book #3) (2018)
- Long Way Down (2018)
- For Every One (2018)
- Lu (Track Book #4) (2018)
- Tomi Adeyemi, 21st-century African-American young adult novelist
- Eve Ewing, 21st-century African-American poet and scholar of education
- Ronald L. Smith, 21st-century African-American children's book author
- Javaka Steptoe, 21st-century African-American children's book author and illustrator
- Angie Thomas, 21st-century African-American young adult novelist
- Fleming, Alexandra Rockey (October 24, 2017). "Meet the Inspiring Author Who Writes Books He Wanted to Read Growing Up: 'Every Kid Knows Fear'". People. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- Reynolds, Jason. "Just received the best birthday news from my editor...SUNNY is done!". Twitter. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
- Krug, Nora (2017-10-23). "How a kid who didn't read a book until he was 17 grew up to become a literary star". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
- Corbett, Sue (Jul 14, 2017). "Jason Reynolds Is the Hardest-Working Man in Washington". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- Foster, Jordan (April 17, 2017). "Jason Reynolds: From Kid Poet to Award-Winning Author". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
- Brown, Lesley-Ann (August 22, 2015). "The Graceful Power of Novelist Jason Reynolds". NBC News. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
- Reynolds, Jason (November 1, 2011). "A brief timeline of my career (so far...)". Jason Reynolds. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
- "Jason Reynolds Publishes Novel | English Department". www.english.umd.edu. University of Maryland. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
- Entertainment (2004-06-13). "Local Listings for the District of Columbia". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
- Reynolds, Jason (2002). Let me speak---. Baltimore, MD: Mwaza Publications. ISBN 0971766347.
- Wilde, Susie. "Jason Reynolds." Audiofile, vol. 26, no. 6, Apr/May2018, pp. 22-23. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lkh&AN=128790521&site=lrc-plus.
- Callard, Abby. "Spoken Word Poems With Jason Reynolds". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
- "WHEN I WAS THE GREATEST by Jason Reynolds". Kirkus Reviews. October 20, 2013. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
- "Children's Book Review: When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds. S&S/Atheneum, $17.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4424-5947-2". Publishers Weekly. October 28, 2013. Retrieved 2018-04-01.
- Magoon, Kekla (2015-12-18). "'All American Boys,' by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
- Bates, Karen Grigsby (November 25, 2015). "'All American Boys': A Young Adult Book About A Police Beating And A Hard Choice". NPR. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
- Kirch, Claire (20 January 2016). "Reynolds, Kiely win WNDB's debut Walter Award". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 9 January 2017.
- Meizner, Kathie; Nolan, Abby McGanney; Quattlebaum, Mary (2016-07-04). "'Being Jazz' and other best YA and children's books this month". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
- "Children's Book Review: As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds". Publishers Weekly. May 9, 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
- "The finalists for this year's Kirkus Prizes". Washington Post. 2016-09-20. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
- "AS BRAVE AS YOU by Jason Reynolds". Kirkus Reviews. March 30, 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
- Aiello, McKenna (February 11, 2017). "NAACP Image Awards 2017 Winners: The Complete List". E! Online. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
- French, Agatha (2017-01-23). "American Library Assn.'s 2017 award winners include 'March: Book Three' by Rep. John Lewis". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-12-06.
- Randall, Kayla (January 4, 2018). "Jason Reynolds Is Revolutionizing the Art of Writing Characters". Washington City Paper. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
- Bush, Elizabeth (2016-05-18). "As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds (review)". Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. 69 (10): 541–541. ISSN 1558-6766.
- "Children's Book Review: Ghost by Jason Reynolds". Publishers Weekly. August 8, 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
- Quattlebaum, Mary (November 1, 2016). "Authors, friends share their inspiration for new books". Washington Post. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
- Messner, Kate (26 August 2016). "A Young Sprinter Finds His Team in 'Ghost'". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
- "GHOST by Jason Reynolds". Kirkus Reviews. July 20, 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2017.
- Rinaldi, Tom (2017-08-25). "Running for Their Lives in Two Middle-Grade Novels About Track Teams". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
- "PATINA From the "Track" series, volume 2 by Jason Reynolds". Kirkus Reviews. July 2, 2017. Retrieved April 1, 2018.
- Worthington, Becca (August 2017). "Patina Review". Booklist. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
- Sommer, Shelley. "Patina by Jason Reynolds Review". School Library Journal. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
- Corbett, Sue. "Jason Reynolds: Writing as Fast as He Can." Publishers Weekly, vol. 264, no. 11, 13 Mar. 2017, p. 22. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lkh&AN=121811518&site=lrc-plus.
- Njoku, Ebony (November–December 2017). "Review of Patina". Horn Book Magazine. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
- "SUNNY From the "Track" series, volume 3 by Jason Reynolds ; illustrated by Jason Reynolds". Kirkus Reviews. April 7, 2018.
- Gunderson, Alexis (April 30, 2018). "The Best Audiobooks of 2018 (So Far)". April 30, 2018. Retrieved April 30, 2018.
- Johnston, Rich (July 23, 2016). "Jason Reynolds To Write A Miles Morales Spider-Man Young Adult Novel". Bleeding Cool.
- Herviou, Nicole (May 20, 2017). "Check out this exclusive art for the new Spider-Man novel". Mashable.
- Diaz, Shelley (July 11, 2017). "Jason Reynolds On "Miles Morales," Spider-Man, and His Secret Superpower". www.slj.com. School Library Journal. Retrieved 2018-04-07.
- Roback, Diane (February 12, 2018). "Kelly, Cordell, LaCour Win Newbery, Caldecott, Printz". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
- Boedeker, Hal. "Maitland author wins Edgar Award: 'Really awesome'". OrlandoSentinel.com. Retrieved 2018-05-01.
- "Outstanding Literary Work – Youth/Teens – NAACP Image Awards: 'Marshall,' 'Get Out,' 'Girls Trip' Dominate Film Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
- "Young Adult Author Jason Reynolds Releases Book "For Every One"". 90.1 FM WABE. 2018-04-06. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
- "Young Adult Hardcover Books - Best Sellers - April 29, 2018". The New York Times. April 29, 2018. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
- "Children's Series Books - Best Sellers - April 29, 2018". The New York Times. April 29, 2018. Retrieved 2018-04-30.
- "John Steptoe New Talent Award". www.ala.org. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
- "Ghost, by Jason Reynolds, 2016 National Book Award Finalist, Young People's Literature". www.nationalbook.org. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
- "Coretta Scott King Book Awards – All Recipients, 1970-Present – Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT)". www.ala.org. Retrieved February 6, 2018.
- "American Library Association announces 2018 youth media award winners". ala.org. American Library Association. February 19, 2018.