15 Sep Our event: Jason Reynolds and Alex Wheatle in conversation
We were all on the edge of our seats, soaking up every word from Jason and Alex that afternoon in Brixton Library. If you couldn’t make it, read on: school librarian, Alison Muirhead has written a brilliant blog for us about the event.
Midweek, mid-August, in the hot London summer, and the conference room at Brixton Public Library was FULL! Full of librarians, authors and enthusiastic readers of young adult fiction all wanting to hear local author Alex Wheatle in conversation with visiting US author Jason Reynolds. Two award-winning authors together talking about reading, writing and children’s fiction in today’s world, but also how reading so positively influenced both of their childhoods.
This talk was one of many on Jason’s countrywide whistle-stop tour of the UK, finishing at the Edinburgh Book Festival.
The two men know each other, so the conversation was relaxed and chatty as they discussed the challenges of becoming a published author – fulfilling a dream for both men struggling to find a voice and representation as young black men, and then retaining that voice for all young black people in both the UK and the USA today. But not only young black people – their children’s and young adult fiction encompass issues affecting so many children today.
Both men talked about their discovery of poetry whilst growing up, and both men found music lyrics inspired their love of poetry. Alex with reggae and Jason with rap music lyrics. Jason took us back to the days of growing up with cassette tapes, when the lyrics to all the songs of an album were printed on the inside of the insert – poetry. His epiphany was a Queen Latifah album, on cassette, lyrics which he felt finally he could identify with and which essentially changed his life.
Question time brought laughter for those who have read the first page of ‘When I Was The Greatest’ by Jason – this book is definitely a candidate for the best opening paragraph in a children’s book – ever! Book sales were a sell-out as everyone wanted a chance to have at least a quick chat with both men and take away their prized signed books. It was a fantastic, inspiring hour of conversation from two charming and enthusiastic children’s authors.
Alison Muirhead, librarian at Newton Prep.
You can watch the full recording here until 11 November, then it will join our curated content for subscriber schools.