written by Gale Greenlee

The countdown continues to Greensboro Bound, May 16-19. And this week, we’re hosting someone special. Jason Reynolds, author of the YA novel, When I Was the Greatest and the middle grade series Ghost, will take the mic Wednesday, April 24, at 7 p.m. in the Union Square Auditorium (124 East Gate City Blvd. in Greensboro). The 35-year-old Washington-D.C. native is on a mission to “not write boring books” and to get “book haters,” especially “book-hating boys” to read. So, when Reynolds comes town, his publisher will donate more than 500 books to a local Title 1 school, and, of course, he’ll read.

If you know about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement, you know his name. He has twelve books to date, and he writes everything from poetry and prose, to a Marvel comic novel Miles Morales: Spider-Man. But if you’re not checking for middle grade or YA lit, especially books that reflect black communities, you may not understand all the hype. Trust me: Reynolds is a big deal. New York Times bestselling author. NAACP Image Award winner. National Book Award finalist. And author of BuzzFeed’s Best YA Book of the Year for his new novel-in-verse, Long Way Down. The book—a gripping story of a 15-year-old who wants revenge for his brother’s death—mixes family, ghosts, and gun violence in the most surreal 60-second elevator ride you’ll ever take. For that book, Publisher’s Weekly calls him “an exceptionally perceptive chronicler of what it means to be a black teen in America.” I just call him “real.”

One minute, he’s got you low-key chuckling or laughing out loud, and the next, your stomach sits in tangles, and you wanna weep—because he feels you. He gets you. Reynolds’s stories look at you, lock eyes, and linger while you shift uncomfortably in your seat, sucker punched by whatever ugly-but-oh-so-real truth his characters’ lives reveal. Characters with rough edges and soft hearts. Kids who cuss and posture. Folk, often unseen and ignored, who act hard but love even harder.

No matter the struggle, Reynolds will cut to the pain, but he’ll also unveil some joy. He unapologetically wraps his pen around black people and communities. Then, he holds us in respect and love. His stories whisper to those who feel invisible, “I see you. No, for real. I see you.” Each book is a beautifully crafted love letter to black youth. To black boys. To black girls. To black childhoods and to those who know the gift of community. For that alone, he has this reader’s gratitude and heart.

Yeah, Jason Reynolds is a big deal y’all. But news flash: he thinks you are too. So to book haters and booklovers alike, don’t miss out. He’s looking for you.

You can learn more about Jason at https://www.jasonwrites.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @JasonReynolds83.