SpeakEasy Blog

Seriously Questioning… Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds is the New York Times bestselling author of the Coretta Scott King Honor book, The Boy in The Black Suit, and co-author of All American Boys with Brendan Kiely, also a Coretta Scott King Honor book, as well as the inaugural recipient of the Walter Dean Myers Award. Aside from his young adult works, Reynolds is also the author of the middle-grade novels As Brave As You, which won the Kirkus Prize and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award, and GHOST, the first of the four-book TRACK series, which was selected as a National Book Award Finalist.

On May 10, he will be speaking at House of SpeakEasy’s Seriously Entertaining show, All Together Now, alongside Elif Batuman, John A. Farrell, and Annabelle Gurwitch (tickets). We spoke to Jason ahead of the show.

Name: Jason Reynolds.

Age: 33.

Where are you from? Washington, DC.

What is your occupation? Writer.

Title of most recent work: GHOST.

What are you working on now? Miles Morales (black spider-man), and the sequel to GHOST, and a bunch of other stuff.

If you had to paint a scene from your childhood to capture its essence, what would you paint? Black children, outside. Old men with cigarettes. Old ladies, drinking. Everybody dressed to the nines.

What’s your earliest memory of literature? Reading Queen Latifah lyrics as a nine-year-old.

Which day in your life would you repeat? Which day would you delete? I would repeat being at the National Book Awards with my mother. I would delete the day I decided to hate my father.

What do you most look forward to? Coffee and dinner.

What do you hope future civilizations will find in the miraculously preserved shell of your home? A pristine, signed first edition of Beloved, and a rare copy of Langston Hughes’s Montage of a Dream Deferred.

What are you reading right now? What It Means When A Man Falls From The Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah.

What was the last great film you saw? Jeremiah Tower.

If you could live inside a fictional world, which one would you choose? Narnia.

What are your go-to quotes? “Process before progress.” And, “Unscrew the locks from the doors / Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs” (Whitman).

Given sufficient budget, what would you put on your wall? All of my friends’ art.

Who, in music, strikes deepest in the soul? Old Aretha, Marvin, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding; anyone from that era!

Who in history would you most like to have a stinking-drunk night out with? Jay-Z.

Print or digital? Print.

What are your preferred writing materials? A “Le Pen” pen, Rhodia pad, and laptop.

What’s the loveliest book (to hold, to look at, to leaf through) that you own? Honey, I Love, by Eloise Greenfield.

Where would we find your favorite bookstore? HA! Too hard. But if I had to pick one, it’s be Capitol Hill Books, in DC. Been around forever. Old mean guy runs it. He has a list of words that you’re not allowed to say taped to the wall, and if you say them, he yells at you. It’s amazing.

How do you celebrate the completion of a piece of work? By starting the next.

Jason Reynolds joins Elif Batuman, John A. Farrell and Annabelle Gurwitch at the Seriously Entertaining show All Together Now at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater on May 10, 2017. Buy tickets here.

Seriously Questioning… Tony Tulathimutte

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Seriously Questioning… Brenda Shaughnessy

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Seriously Questioning… Mitchell S. Jackson

The recipient of a Whiting Award in 2016, Mitchell S. Jackson has a bright future. When Roxane Gay reviewed The Residue Years, his 2013 debut novel (or “novel“, as the cover has it; it’s also sort of a memoir), she picked out its language, “flying off the page with percussive energy“, its “warmth and wit”, “a hard-won… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning… Idra Novey

To translate is not just to render in a different language but (done well) to ventriloquize the soul of another. It is to understand undercurrents transcendently, better to realize meaning. Translation isn’t just Babel fishing; it’s screen printing, recreation, midwifery. Idra Novey, the Brooklyn-based novelist and poet who’s translated Clarice Lispector, Paulo Henriques Britto, and Lascano… Continue Reading

Space Oddity

Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space Janna Levin Knopf, 2016; 256pp The romance of the cosmos is the subject of Black Hole Blues. The romance of bodies of unimaginable size colliding and merging darkly and silently in space. Romance, yes — but also the knotty bureaucracy that has hampered and enabled scientists for the… Continue Reading

Review: The Sellout, by Paul Beatty

The Sellout Paul Beatty Farrar, Straus and Giroux (hardcover) / Picador (paperback), 2015; 304pp Entering the world like the bastard love-child of a Chris Rock routine and a Thomas Pynchon novel, The Sellout is a sensational satire on race relations in the United States. Its outrageous plot, which reintroduces segregation to a forgotten ghetto in Los Angeles County, motors along… Continue Reading

Seriously Questioning… Richard Cohen

In How To Write Like Tolstoy: A Journey Into the Minds of Our Greatest Writers (Random House, 2016), Richard Cohen shares with readers the magpied loot of a lifetime of reading. Packed with examples from the best of world literature and interspersed with anecdotes from his one-time day job as an editor (he’s worked with Fay Weldon, Kingsley Amis, Simon Winchester,… Continue Reading

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