https://i1.wp.com/www.blackstarfest.org/wp-content/uploads/Many-Lumens_Banner_Rd4.png?w=1200&ssl=1

EPISODE 3

Jason Reynolds

Writer and poet Jason Reynolds posits literature as a form of radical world-making. Maori talks to him about kindred experiences in the late 90s D.C. spoken word scene, hippie parents, his love of Queen Latifah (and not so secretly 90 Day Fiancé) and so much more!

  • Guest Bio
  • Credits
  • Show Notes
  • Transcript
Guest Bio

Jason Reynolds is an award-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling author. Jason’s many books include Miles Morales: Spider Man, the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu), Long Way Down, which received a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, and a Correta Scott King Honor, and Look Both Ways, which was a National Book Award Finalist. His latest book, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, is a collaboration with Ibram X. Kendi. Jason is the 2020-2021 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and has appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and CBS This Morning. He is on faculty at Lesley University, for the Writing for Young People MFA Program and lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at JasonWritesBooks.com.

Credits

Produced by Patrice Worthy and Farrah Rahaman

Edited by David Adams.

Engineered by Mike Mehalick.

Music supervisor: Rashid Zakat.

Music:

  • Theme song composed by Vijay Mohan and remixed by David ‘DJ Lil Dave’ Adams. 
  • Additional music in this episode: “Untitled (Lights)” by lil’dave

Show notes written by Irit Reinheimer

Show Notes

Miles Morales: Spider-Man (written by Jason Reynolds, Marvel, 2017)

Queen Latifah

For Everyone 826 National video

Defying the Note An interview with Radha Blank (Niela Orr, Seen, Fall 2020) 

Slam (directed by Marc Levin, 1998)

Deborah Roberts 

Bisa Butler

Jerrell Gibbs

YoYo Lander

Jason Reynold’s 2019 Times 100 Next speech: On Only Recognizing People Of Color Who Are ‘Convenient To Love’

The Mouthless God and Jesus Number Two (written by Jason Reynolds, Scribner, 2022)

Ella Watson: The Empowered Woman of Gordon Parks’s ‘American Gothic’ (Deborah Williams, New York Times, May 14, 2018)

Wendy (directed by Benh Zeitlin, Fox Searchlight, 2020)

Transcript

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:00:02):
You are listening to Many Lumens, where we talk about and find meaning in the intersections of art, social change and popular culture. I’m your host Maori Karmael Holmes. In this episode, I speak with the writer and poet, Jason Reynolds, who posits literature as a form of radical world making. We talk about our kindred experiences in the late 1990s, DC’s spoken word scene, our hippie parents, his love of Queen Latifah, (and not so secretly 90 day fiance). Well welcome, Jason, welcome to the third episode of Many Lumens, which is this new experiment of mine. And I really appreciate you being on here being our first non filmmaker guest.

Jason Reynolds (00:00:59):
It’s my pleasure. Thank you for having me. Yeah.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:01:02):
I know that you love film and your work is so closely integral to film in so many other visual projects. So it’s not really breaking the rules, but I was really just looking for an excuse to talk to you

Jason Reynolds (00:01:16):
On, on, on air, on record, you can call me whenever you want Maori.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:01:22):
So this is the, the brief Jason Reynolds, um, biography, the Washingtonian called you the Bard of black young adult fiction. You are a New York times bestselling author of 14 books, most deemed for young adults. But I know a lot of old adults like myself who read your work. You are a two time national book award finalist, Newbury honor, and Kirkus prize recipient, NAACP image award winner, and the 2020 to 2021 national ambassador for young people’s literature. You wrote Marvel comics’ first novelization of a POC. Spider-Man Myles Morales in 2017. Your work has been adapted into a play, and this is all in six years. Am I missing anything?

Jason Reynolds (00:02:04):
Not that I want to mention. That’s enough.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:02:09):
You are like the James Brown of, uh, I don’t even know if it’s just YA fiction. I feel like of, um, fiction.

Jason Reynolds (00:02:18):
Oh, I am, Uh, you know, in any other category, in any others fee or any other context, I would be considered obsessive. Like that’s really what it is, right. Is that I have there’s something in me that is, um, that is motorized in a, in a, in a, in a way that I, that has propelled me to success, but it’s also tearing me apart in other ways, you know what I mean? So the bio is dope and it’s super like impressive, but it comes at a cost for sure. Yeah. Yeah.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:02:49):
What is the, I don’t want to say the end game, because we can’t think about our lives like that, but this particular phase that you meant you’re in, when do you see sort calming down a bit?

Jason Reynolds (00:03:02):
Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know. I always, I thought it would calm down this year. Uh, I thought it would calm down last year actually. Um, but I like to live in the deep water and, uh, if, if life, if art and the things that I’m making are challenging to me, then I won’t, I won’t, I won’t do it. Right. So like, so like the artists of whatever I’m working on has to be difficult. Uh, but then in the difficulty comes, make the making of something interesting. And then the making of that thing because of my success gets pushed to the forefront. Right? So now, because of that’s the way it works right now, because of success, whatever that, whatever you make is going to get pushed to the forefront. And because I’m really anal about everything and I work really hard to make sure that whatever I’m producing is, is solid, then it exists in this interesting space.

Jason Reynolds (00:03:54):
And then there’s more things that I have to do to manage that space. Right? So it just, it’s a never ending ending cycle. I thought being the ambassador would be a little less work and it turned out to be a lot more, I thought doing a non-fiction book about race would kind of come and go. I thought it was going to be like, Oh, I’m going to, I’m going to enter this into this space as like something that maybe the kids could read in school as an offset to the, to the nonsense history books. Right. And that’s going to be that

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:04:24):
Gigs in February.

Jason Reynolds (00:04:27):
I’ve been, it became a much bigger thing. Right. And right now I’m working on something completely different than all of these things. And my fear, my hope is that it becomes a big thing, but my theory is that it will become a big thing and that’s life, you know, the end game is I don’t, I don’t know, maybe I’m going to age out. Right. So, so I guess that’s the one guarantee is that there’s going to come a day where the distance between me and these kids that are right for the Delta will be too wide and it’s going to be harder to connect. And then I’ll know, hopefully I’ve done my job and to raise a crop of young writers to take over and I can kind of move on and do something else.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:05:06):
Yeah. You, you know, work really hard. You were on the road a lot. Right. And I know for myself, I probably have a quarter of the work that you do. And I have been grounded in a way that I have never been grounded probably since eighth grade. And so I’m wondering for you, what is it like to be at home for these past seven months? Not on the road. Um, I know you’ve been finding novel ways to still connect with your audience, but what is it like to be in the same place? Like what has shifted for you in your practice?

Jason Reynolds (00:05:42):
Yes, a few things. I mean, at the beginning of it, I was so happy, you know, as somebody who lives in airports and hotels, you know, uh, it was so nice. I mean, I, I acquired this home to be a sanctuary, right. I built this place to be a sanctuary for myself and I never got to really utilize it as such. And so to be able to have this space, and honestly, I couldn’t even complain about quarantine because we’re not all quarantining the same. It is not, it is not, it has not been an equalizer. Right. It’s, it’s been, uh, it’s been more of an examination as to how inequitable things really are. Um, and so for me as somebody who is fortunate and who is privileged in that way, um, economically, uh, it’s been lovely to be in this, this incubator that I built.

Jason Reynolds (00:06:39):
Right. That being said, we’re on month number seven. And so much of my, um, and most of us as artists, so much of our lives is all about the filtering of our experiences through a creative lens. But I have no experiences. I mean, I’m in, I’m in the crib. Like, and when I step outside, it’s usually to like brunch to the store, like, you know, I’m talking to my mother from outside of her house and like all this weird stuff that we all have to do right now. And I realize that so much of my life is about like the interaction with humans and then taking that interaction and distilling it right. And, and sort of like synthesizing it and then pushing it through this interesting filter, even though my house was surrounded by all these things that are feeding my creativity, they don’t work if I don’t have external, uh, stimulate to bounce off of them.

Jason Reynolds (00:07:27):
And so I’ve had to go and rent an office outside of the house. I can’t, I can’t, even though this is being filmed in my office. Right. And I can’t, I haven’t been able to really work in here since the quarantine or after the first three months. Um, because, because this isn’t like, my space was supposed to be like a space that I want to like come to, I live here and then when I’m not traveling, I have this space to come to this. I never been forced to stay in here, has turned this into a prison. And so I, um, yeah, I rented a, I rented an office and I go there and like myself in that space and it works better for me to be outside of the house to get dressed, get up, take a shower, get dressed, get out of the house. Um, even though I’m going just to the office and sit in there for five or six hours. So it’s, it’s complicated.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:08:16):
So this is a fun question. What did baby Jason want to do?

Jason Reynolds (00:08:22):
It’s interesting. Right. Because I don’t, I don’t know, baby. Jason knew, I think, well, here’s what I’ll say. I mean, there were moments in my life when I was really young, I wanted to be an Acrobat because I thought that there was nothing cooler than people who could do backflips. Right. Like I just thought that was like magic. And then there were moments where I wanted to be an astronaut, because when you learn about astronauts as a kid, they feel like real life superheroes. Right. It’s like, well, they give him a rocket ships and they exist in a place that we can’t see. Right. Uh, and then was a moment where I wanted to be a psychologist. And that was because I had learned that my father was a psychologist and it was like, wait, he’s a psychologist. And my father studied hypnosis. Right. Like it, which was also interesting to grow up.

Jason Reynolds (00:09:06):
I grew up on like a really strange, I think we’ve talked about this with like, I grew up when I get super liberal, weird hippy-dippy household. And my, my father would look at my mother as if she was all like, woo. Cause my mom was like, you know, my mom was on like the crystals and all of that. And like the eighties, you know what I’m saying? And, and Palo Santo and all, all of this that we’re doing now that we think is all new. Our mom is like, we’ve been doing that in the house. And my father always looked to her as like a little bit left of center me while he was studying in hypnosis. Right. And like practicing on his kids and like, you know what I’m saying? And so I want it to be as like I thought he was the coolest dude in the world, so I wanted to be a psychologist for a moment.

Jason Reynolds (00:09:49):
Um, and then I found, uh, poetry when I was 10. And that was it. Right. Once I, once I understood that there was a way to manipulate language, right? Like there’s a, like, there’s a, I mean, look me or I, and this is what I think about it truly. I believe that I have 26 letters, 26 letters to, to, to put it into a multitude of arrangement, to cast a spell amongst humans. Like, it’s like, it’s the wildest form of alchemy. Right. Other than music, it’s the wildest form of alchemy, right. All I have is these 26 letters. And my job is to sort of put them in an order to make them do something to the human psyche. And there’s something about that to this day, right? At 36, having worked in this industry for, for 15 years, haven’t been writing since I was 10, 11 years old. It still overwhelms me, the idea of the possibilities that I have with just these, with these 26 characters. Right. Like it overwhelms me to think about it daily. I’m like, I cannot believe that I get to every day, figure out how to move these letters around, to move human beings to the left or to the right. Right. What, what, uh, and, and that’s all I really needed to know. And after that, I knew then at 10 years old, I was like, I know whatever it is I’m gonna do. It’s gotta be something with this language.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:11:12):
That’s really beautiful. I, um, I take writing for granted and it is not something I’m proud of, but I really that’s, I really respect that. I’m going to be thinking about it. I read in different bios and different interviews that you didn’t read a novel cover to cover until you were 17. But I don’t think I’ve seen, what was that novel?

Jason Reynolds (00:11:34):
Black Boy, Richard Wright. Richard Wright. And you know, it wasn’t, it wasn’t even, I mean, I loved the novel. He was a complicated, complicated man, but I did love the novel, um, because of the pace, it had nothing to do. It was about the pace, right? Like when you look back at school, a lot of it is just these 50 page expositions. It’s like, this is boring. When is the good part going to happen? But in Black Boy, it was like, page number two, he burns the house down. And I was like, word up, you know what I mean? Like basic. Right. And that, and that was it for me at 17, almost 18, 17 and a half year.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:12:10):
So there’s this other piece that I read about your mother publishing your first poem or not your first poem, but your first publishing in the Memorial program for your grandmother, which I think is such a beautiful affirmation. And I wanted to know what, or whom gave you permission to consider yourself a writer?

Jason Reynolds (00:12:31):
I don’t think I’ve asked for it. I think, you know, I come from a family, my mother man, talk about a lady. Um, I think, I think there was never a moment in my life where I felt like I was less than, or that I had to ask permission to be whatever or whoever I want it to be because of the way we were raised. Right. My mom made it very clear that we were a whole, that we were home, even when we were young, you know, I was raised in a house where I couldn’t go to bed at night, unless my mother, unless my mother heard me say out loud that I could do anything, any, and she made me believe that everything I touch turns to go, not that that would come without work. Right. But that, um, but then I’m up for it.

Jason Reynolds (00:13:12):
So that was built for that work. Right. And that, and that if it’s something that I want to be or want to do or want to see, all those things are tangible, nothing is out of bounds. Right. She made sure that, um, that my voice was heard. I live, I always tell people I lived in a house where we could talk back. You know, if my mother said something that we disagreed with, I could say, I disagree. I can say, I think you’re wrong. I can say, I think you’d be in me. I, and that, I don’t know if you’ve got to cuss at me. Right. Like I got a house and you know, and there were moments where she said, Jason, honestly, I hear you, but you’re still in trouble. And there were other moments where she would say, you know what, kid, I’m sorry, I’ve had a long day.

Jason Reynolds (00:13:54):
You know what I mean? And that’s not your fault, you know? Uh, and, and when I wanted to talk back, she made sure she, she made sure that we, uh, we had to be confident in our argument. So it’s like, if you got something you want to say to me and you better stick your chest out and you better hold you, you better hold your squid. If not, I’m not going to take you seriously. I want to be able to hear you from the other side of the room. If you really got something that you disagree with, you better make it clear and don’t leave nothing up to, you know, nothing can be left up to debate, like make, make sure I know how you feel and make it clear. And let me know that you’re confident in that standing and I’ll let you rock.

Jason Reynolds (00:14:29):
Right. And, and, and when she was teaching us, it wasn’t just confidence. And it wasn’t just that we all have voices, but she also was trying to get us to understand that if we could, if we weren’t afraid to publicly speak our opinions, that we’d have the edge on 90% of the world, because everybody’s greatest fear is that. And so she’s kind of like, if I could teach you how to speak publicly in a whole, and to really get up there and just do your thing and not kid just really hold, hold it down publicly, then you don’t have a leg up no matter what you buy to get into it, you’re going to have a leg up. Cause can’t nobody do it. Right. So she, my mom was like a mastermind when it came to the way she raised us, you know what sounds for the worst, but mostly, mostly for the best.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:15:14):
I know my mother used to say, uh, I don’t know who told you to be so smart, you know, like when she didn’t want to hear it, but I understand that. So I think like many of us were almost around the same age. You started with hip hop and with rap. And I read that you, you know, take some of that into your, I think, early cultural formation. So I wanted to ask you, who is your favorite emcee? And if you can’t name one, who are your top five?

Jason Reynolds (00:15:44):
Ooh. I mean, like, if it’s, you know, we got it, we got to stop doing this. Right. Because it’s like, I can tell you who my top five are right now. I can tell you who my top five word back then I can say, right. I mean, right now, I’m going with, um, I’m going with black, um, black though, I’m going with, even though he ain’t in the game anymore, Andre 3000, uh, I got to go with, it’s interesting, right? Because my is a part of me that wants to say Kendrick, but I actually as big of a Kendrick fan as I am. I just don’t know if I would put them in my top five. Like, I don’t know. Uh, let’s see, thought, you know, I learned in Brazil, the boys, man, I love Conway. Like I’m going to put them in my top five at the moment, like lyricist, he just nasty with it. And he, and he makes me feel like the nineties all over again, which I like where it’s a little bit like dangerous in a real way where you’re like, you might really be a killer. I kinda liked that. You know what I mean? Uh, I still, I really love, um, I still love Queen Latifah. I love queen my team.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:17:01):
I have never heard that answer.

Jason Reynolds (00:17:03):
I think I honestly, I think that Queen Latifah might be the most underrated black woman in media period. Honestly, I think, I think if we would’ve really look at what she’s done on paper, it’s a travesty, it’s a travesty that she isn’t talked about. We’re talking about someone who, who, who has changed herself and has really revolutionized many different sectors of this industry over and over again. We’re talking about somebody who was cutting her own checks as a teenager, talking about somebody who, who tapped into television early as a rapper. Uh, we talking about somebody who tapped into jazz as a rapper movie productions. Uh, we talking about talk shows, we talking about a makeup advertisement, like queen Latifa is a whole mobile and people don’t be talking about it. Like she was talking about cultural resets over and over and over again. And don’t nobody ever say, man, and she could bar everybody down still. Right. So like I gotta put my teeth in there and I don’t know. I don’t know. Like I love, I love race. I love pun. I love, um, I love like when Lauren Hill was an inner bag, like, I mean, when nobody tried to mess with Lauren, you know what I mean? Like it’s so many, I mean, I feel lucky to be black just because I feel like, just be happy about it just because I’m like, we’re not related, but we kind of, and that makes me feel good.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:18:36):
You know, preparing for this interview, I was watching a number of your, uh, speeches and, um, of course that recent video that you did for the eight to six project and something occurred to me. I don’t know if you saw, uh, skip Gates, uh, whatever that ancestry program is that he does. And you know, Chris rock realized that he had preachers in his lineage and I feel like you must have preachers or hustlers somewhere in your lineage because your cadence is so, you know, just like I want to do whatever you say.

Jason Reynolds (00:19:11):
I’m sure. I’m sure. You know, my daddy is a slick dude. He’s one of these guys that, um, you don’t, my mother always talks about it. She’s like, look, I’m married. I married the bad boy. Cause I couldn’t, I couldn’t help. I deal with nothing I could do. Right. He, it was a, he had a, um, he has just a way about him and he, uh, and he has a way of making everybody feel comfortable, even though he getting ready to tell you something, wow, right here, you’ll make sure you settle into the conversation. And man, and he’s just a special dude. So I would probably attribute some of that to my old man, for sure. He’s a, he’s an interesting, he’s an interesting cat. And you know, also think like that, some of that hip hop stuff too, like, you know, you coming up with that when you coming up in that and you’re coming up with that, I just think, um, in the same way that my father’s friends and all of them came up with like jazz, you know what I mean?

Jason Reynolds (00:20:08):
Old parts of the blues and how it affected who they were. I mean, when you look at Richard Roundtree, as he’s playing shad, it’s all, it’s just jazz and blues. Right. And maybe some funk. Right. But like he is the embodiment of those, of those musical sort of moments. Right. And my father is totally bad guy, right? T-shirt gold chains and like gold watch diamond rings, motorcycles and fast cars. But he grew up in that whole like, Hey, this is how you do it. This is how it’s lifestyle. Right. Which I think the jazz cats really showed us like, like lifestyle. This is lifestyle. And I think hip hop is just the same way. You know? Like it’s all about sort of like confidence and swagger and knowing when to be loud and knowing when to be soft, um, knowing when to leave space for the music, you know, like all of these things, knowing when there needs to be a hook and only when there doesn’t. And I think all of that is sort of the way that I sort of communicate naturally.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:21:02):
There is something else I was thinking about. So of course this is for the audience, but we became acquainted through our friend Radha blank at Sundance in 2017. And I think it was for both of us, our first Sundance. Um, but I also love that since then, we’ve realized that we were in the same rooms and along youth street in the late nineties, particularly a bar, none, um, the slam poetry era. And I was really young. I was like 1920. So you were like 15

Jason Reynolds (00:21:31):
And

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:21:32):
What were you thinking you’d be doing now? What was 15 year old? Jason imagining 20, 20.

Jason Reynolds (00:21:37):
Oh, I was supposed to be, so I thought, look, I, you know, I was 15 sitting in the back of that club. They would let me sit in the back and uh, cause I was under age. And so I would just kinda hide out in the back of the club and watch everybody else giving a microphone. And you couldn’t tell me that I wasn’t and you gotta remember and slam. So it was so slammed. The movie was out. I just come out, Oh my God. It was like a Colt classic. And it was filmed in DC. And so like, all my friends are in the movie. Right. And you were watching it. And I mean, that was just my jam. And I just knew like, man, I’m, I’m going to be some kind of version of that. Right. I’m going to figure out how to, how to do this and that on a, on a, on Broadway or I’m going to figure out how to do before, before Def poetry existed because it wasn’t a thing yet.

Jason Reynolds (00:22:21):
I’m going to figure out how to do this in an opera house. So, you know, I always try to figure out how can I take this thing that I love so much and make it something bigger. That’s what I thought I’d be doing. I really had no intention of ever becoming a novelist. I wanted to be a poet forever. And now I couldn’t imagine being anything. It’s so funny because now I’m like, I couldn’t imagine getting on stage and reciting poems. Like I couldn’t imagine that I’m grateful for it because it gave me some chops and it taught me a lot of different things, but I didn’t think this was going to be my life.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:22:50):
What were you, what was like your focus of, if you did have one in high school, what was your focus of study?

Jason Reynolds (00:22:56):
Oh, uh, high school. You know what the wild part is in high school. This is what I was doing. So like in high school I was all about, I was like the kid that like I was in, first of all, I was, I was a high school athlete and which is interesting because I was like the athlete who also wrote poems. I played, I ran track and I wrestled, you know, and I loved it, both of them. And I had, but I was an art kid. You know what I mean, address funny, uh, according to everyone else, I wanted to write my poems and I would recite my poems at school. Like for school assemblies, I’d be like, y’all want to, I want to read one of my poems. And like, and it was totally with it, like totally kind of like, I don’t care what nobody say and got the respect of so many of my classmates were like, yo, JB, whatever, that, whatever that is, JB doing that.

Jason Reynolds (00:23:46):
And we like it. We won’t always understand it, but we rock and move with them. You know what I mean? And I, I feel fortunate looking back now, cause I really had a group of people around me, friends around me who let me be whoever I was, nobody tried to make me into who they wanted me to be. Even though I was an athlete and all that other stuff, it was kind of like, nah, but he really just be on his rep really on his, on his creative stuff. That’s what I see as Jan. He really trying to be Andre 3000 out here.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:24:14):
Do you know anything about your astrology?

Jason Reynolds (00:24:17):
I keep forgetting to get my chart read cause I got to keep it going to ask my mother about my time of birth. Um, but I’m a Sage and I act like one. I know that for a fact.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:24:29):
You’re definitely a sad, well I was asking, cause I feel like you have Leo placements and I w I want to, I’m so curious what your rising is. Um, or just,

Jason Reynolds (00:24:39):
I think, I think somebody told me once there was some Scorpio and it might’ve been Leo. It was something else.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:24:45):
That’s the thing that I pick up on. But I was just curious if you knew I don’t, I don’t know much, but I like to play around. Oh, your favorite sign. That’s the one.

Jason Reynolds (00:24:57):
Okay.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:25:00):
I’m going to make it your favorite sign. Um, so I know that you collect art and rare books and I was reading that you also collect watches. Um, are there any contemporary artists that you’re currently obsessed with?

Jason Reynolds (00:25:14):
Oh yeah. Right now. Who am I checking for? I just got, so I just got a Deborah Roberts piece, um, which I’ll let you see that on Instagram. I just got it. And I’ve been trying to get one of them for a long time. I tried, I asked her for a piece with me before she was famous and then just ain’t follow up with it and blew it. And then I had to pay right. Four years later, which was brutal. I got Debbie Roberts speeches now. I love booming, but Diego, which is a young woman, she’s out in New York at the moment. I want to say out of New York at the moment. And she does all her work with black hair. So I bought some of her stuff recently. I actually could see it in the, in the screen. That’s a piece of hers right there.

Jason Reynolds (00:25:52):
And she just uses like black hair to make almost like paper. Like it’s pretty incredible. And I know black people got complicated relationship with like hair that does not attach to their heads. Right. It’s like once they come over here, you post like flush down the toilet, all the things. But she’s kinda like, she’s kind of like, or we could like do what we really should do with it and turn it into something that is ceremonial. And that is, that is something that is like art. It is something that should be praised and it should be, it should be looked upon with, with, with adoration and admiration. Right. Because it is the only thing because it is genetic it’s DNA. Right. And there’s something about that. That is interesting. So I have a piece of various, uh, of course I left visa Butler stuff. Um, I got an old piece of pieces as most people know that I’m, I’m so grateful for that cherish because her work is so different than what it was back then.

Jason Reynolds (00:26:44):
I mean, her name is actually she’s she’s uses. So her name into the fabric and like that, like her name is the, you know, stuff like that. Um, and then they send me some newer cats. I’m checking them for like Jarell Gibbs out of Baltimore. Young brother is a beast. And I’m looking at, um, yo-yo Lander who is, uh, does a lot of mosaic work, which is just brilliant, beautiful, beautiful stuff. Um, I’m all like, that’s like my real channel. I’m all into like the art, like visual art and all of that kind of stuff. And so I just discovered some sculpture. I want to figure out how to buy a piece of sculpture. It’s so hard to find black people who make sculpture, but there are still some, and I found somebody recently, I can’t remember her brother’s name, but I’m going to try to see if I can reach out to him and get a, get a sculpture. I don’t know I’m going to put it, but I mean, get something. This is all about supporting this man. And, and I’m on about generational wealth. And I know, look, I think buy sneakers all day, or I could buy a piece of bullying, but day goes work when she’s 27 years old

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:27:39):
For whom do you make work?

Jason Reynolds (00:27:41):
This is a good question. You know, and it’s a bit of a loaded question because I feel like so many of us say, like I write, I write for myself, I write for myself. And I just think, I just think that’s ridiculous. Not because I think there’s anything wrong with writing for stuff. I just think it’s a fallacy. I think that I can’t claim to write for kids. And then when asked this question, say, I write for me, like, no, I write for the kids. I write, I write with them in my mind, black children are at the forefront of my mind all the time when I’m sitting at the desk. Um, because in order for me to make something that actually represents them or that work or attaches itself to them, I have to have them in mind. It has to be intentional. And that’s how to move with intention even when I’m making it work.

Jason Reynolds (00:28:29):
Now, does it feed me? Of course. And I mean that emotionally, right? Is it, does it feed me emotionally and psychologically of course, is there, am I excavating parts of myself in the work? Yes, of course. There’s no way that you can be a writer and not be dealing with self, right. Because in order to be a writer, one has to shut out all the other external voices and just be alone with self. So there’s no way you can avoid dealing with yourself. Right? So like all that stuff is there. But if the question is, who am I writing for? I’m writing for black people. Uh, and, and, and, and in most contexts, specifically, black children, am I being changed in the midst of the process? Yes. Right. And that’s sort of the best way I can answer that question.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:29:12):
No, I, I appreciate that. And I always like to ask that because I think sometimes even when people say they’re writing for themselves, it’s similar to the idea that, you know, even when we parent or take care of people, we’re often thinking about how we want to be cared for. So I don’t know that even saying you’re writing for self is not also for black children, right. Cause it’s the black child in you, you know, um, I was watching your time 100 speech and, um, really love this

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:29:42):
Idea about making work for young people of color, even the ones that aren’t, you know, sort of safe to love, um, or easy to love. And I really appreciate that. You talk about love a lot in other interviews and panels, love for your mother and, uh, particularly love for your friends growing up and the ones that are around you. Why is it so important to you to be uplifting this?

Jason Reynolds (00:30:07):
No, that’s a wonderful question. I mean, what else is there? Right. Like I think for me, um, um, I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been so fortunate. My, my friends, I got, I grew up with the same. I had the same friends as I was like four, five, and I’m grateful for that because my life has changed so much over the last 10 years. And all of a sudden people treat me differently, but not them right. Not them. They don’t treat me any differently. They still know Jay from, you know, as hanging out in the neighborhood and doing knucklehead stuff, throwing bottles in the street, you know, they still know Jason who is, uh, insecure and has feelings of inadequacy and has terrible anxiety and leans on them for, for spaces of peace and comfort, uh, as leveling rods, right? Like they steady me in a certain way because they know me and they’re nonjudgmental and we never, you know, I, we, we, and you’ve heard, you know, Aaron, my, my, my, my day one, they’re a home.

Jason Reynolds (00:31:15):
He’s a home. Right. My guy. And it’s interesting because we, we we’ve taken for granted that we grew up in a group of friends where you could be a boy and say, you were scared and nobody was going to make you feel bad. It was to be like, Oh yeah, it’s cool, man. Don’t worry about it. Like, you don’t have to do it. Or we will all do it together. Right. Or when our parents, when all of our parents fell apart and our families broke down to have each other there to say, like, I know how you feel, or you can tell me how you feel. You can cry in front of me and I’m not going to like, make you feel small or judge you, you know, like it’s, it’s sometimes Erin comes over to our house. Cause I, I get emotional. Like I, I am an emotional person when you write stories, it’s it comes with the territory.

Jason Reynolds (00:31:57):
Like everything that is narrative, especially as it pertains to humanity makes me really emotional. Right. So if I’m watching TV and it’s a human story and there’s anything that ha it could be anything, small thing, I get so emotional and he could be sitting right next to me and pay it. No mind, he will let me, I, if the tea has come out here, let me wait and get myself together. He won’t even, it’s like, he won’t even acknowledge it. You’re like, just keep reading the paper or looking at the show. Or, and that level of comfort is salvific. Like that level of freedom, right? It’s about black boy joy or free black free black man. Right. I’m a free black person. Right. And that level of freedom, uh, is, is, is, is just that right. It’s freedom. It’s freedom. And I will always be grateful for my friends and for my mother and for my father who kissed his boys, kissed his boys. You know, he’s still kisses his boys at 70 years old. And I, um, yeah, man, that’s what I made up.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:32:57):
Uh, in addition to those folks you just named, do you have a council that you lean upon or go to for critique

Jason Reynolds (00:33:04):
Full critique? You know what I don’t. So, um, I’m, I’m really weird about it. So I don’t mind critique. I don’t mind critique at all, but I, I just don’t like people reading my stuff until it’s like all the way there, you know what I mean? So I don’t have like a writing group or anything like that. I can’t do it. Like I writing is super solitary for me. So when my work is critique, it’s a critique by my editor. Like nobody sees it. Nobody reads my work before it’s done no one except for her. And so she and I have a really tight and intimate relationship because she knows me and she knows what I’m trying to do. She knows my work. She knows my voice. She knows the way that I’m trying to like my process and the way that I, the way that I think about literature is much like the way painters think about painting, where it’s like, first you have your primary, right?

Jason Reynolds (00:33:49):
Well, first you have your structured bonds. Then you have your canvas. Then you have your primary thing. You have your first wash, right? Like that’s the way I think about like layer after layer after layer. And she knows that. So she knows what to look for underneath the text, right? Like subtext and context and all these other things. And so she’s, she’s, she’s my person, right? Toni Morrison had her, had her editor, right? It’s like, this is my person. And we kind of do this thing together now, personal critique. There’s a lot of people around me. That’d be like, Jacob, you know, get your together. And all those people that I’m really grateful for. And, uh, cause that’s what love sounds like to me. So

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:34:24):
You’re listening to many lumens brought to you by Blackstar.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:35:09):
[inaudible]

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:35:16):
Welcome back. You’re listening to many lumens brought to you by Blackstar. Another thing that we have in common is that you worked in retail clothing for, uh, some time. And, uh, I’m, uh, that’s the end of what we have in common, but also you have a unique signature style. And I think particularly for an author, did you ever envision that you’d be working in fashion? Was that ever on the table?

Jason Reynolds (00:35:43):
Yo, so, Oh man. So like I never thought I would work when I started working retail. I loved it. So like that’s the thing, right? Like I worked in retail, in New York city where it’s a whole occupation, like it’s a whole career, right. Because you, you meet like 40, 50 year old, 60 year olds. And I learned this when I was working in retail. It’s like, look, you know, you want to buy a $3,000 suit from a 60 year old. Right. Not from a 19 year old. Right. Like, so somebody’s gotta work that gig. Right. And I knew brothers, I knew it. I knew a brother who them, I won’t say, but brother who was working for Chloe who was making 200 grand a year and working three days a week, cause he had clients. Right. It was just a whole different thing. And I loved it.

Jason Reynolds (00:36:25):
I loved helping people feel good because that’s what it was. Right. And, and listening to their stories. Um, and I worked with, when I first started working, I worked in all women’s shop. And so it was dope because I got to talk to women all day and which there’s the obvious sort of like, listen, there’s the obvious like, Oh, there’s that sort of like, there’s always that weird sort of potential for sexual chemistry. Right. And so there’s that, but honestly less about that and more about the fact that my whole life is just women. Right? Like my, my whole family is women. Right? Like, like I, I just prefer to be around women because I think that they are just better. Right. So it’s because they’re warm. And I, I, I, I feel fortunate to be around so many women who, who have no problem telling me when I’m wrong and who also have no problem saying, come in, like, you’re going through what you’re going through.

Jason Reynolds (00:37:21):
Like I have a place for you here. Right. Both of those things. Uh, and I feel so grateful and I try my best to make sure that those gifts aren’t in vain. Right. And so like working in an all women shop was dope for me cause that’s, I like to communicate that way. And so it was cool to see women come in and leave feeling better about themselves or to come in and try on a dress and say, what do you think of this? And try to sort that out and work that work that work with them and then learning how to like pain and, and how to measure and how to tailor and all those things. So that I can say like liquid essentially at the waist right here, and really accented your figure. And we could do this, that and the third and you want something, you got problem with your arms.

Jason Reynolds (00:37:57):
We can figure out how to get your side with some sleeves we got and even learning about all of these insecurities that I didn’t know about. And then I also have myself. Right. So it was also some of that stuff out of like, I got my own body stuff and I got my own, I don’t know, like it was wonderful. It was I, and I like to get fly and we got all them clothes from almost free. So I had like, you know, I’m like a young 25 year old with a cashmere purple trench coat. Right. And like spectator, like, like, you know, coat of another spectator boots and like raw denim, a cable knit sweaters that are made from some special kind of like, you know, it was a leather jackets and like, listen to me, I ain’t got nothing bad to say about working retail except for the fact that it was a job. And I don’t like working jobs. That’s the only issue. It was the old job.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:38:50):
No, I, I totally appreciate that. I worked primarily in children’s retail and my last days were in this Dutch children’s clothing store that they sold women’s clothes too. But the children’s is what made it the most enjoyable. One of the reasons I wanted to ask you about your retail experience and your style, uh, or mention your style because it’s something I’m constantly in search of a uniform, and I’m not sure if we’ve talked about this, you have one which I really, really respect. And I wanted to know how you settled upon it. I always think of you as this kind of like living, breathing, sort of a take on a literal character from rockers almost. And it’s like, you’re Linton, quasi Johnson and Jagger in the same breath.

Jason Reynolds (00:39:33):
That’s the highest compliment ever.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:39:37):
But how’d you settle on this? Look,

Jason Reynolds (00:39:39):
Yo, honestly, this is, this is sort of a convergence of myself and my father. You know, my father, if you saw photographs of my father at my age, he looks just like this, uh, you know, jeans and boots and knees, his knees cut out and a t-shirt and he always had a gold chain or two around his neck. He always had an, a wristwatch and he always had an, a ring with two bracelets. Uh, he always had the long hair, always had a beard and he always looked like at any given time he could pick up a guitar. He would look like, right. So like he always looked like he wasn’t what he was. My father was a psychologist. You know what I mean? Like he was a doctor, but, but he always looked like he wasn’t, he looked at because he wasn’t always a backer.

Jason Reynolds (00:40:23):
He was something else before that he was a hustler. Right. And so that was sort of his life and, and that sort of the way he always presented himself as sort of a guy that looked like a rocker where it was like, yo, you might be, you, you might be the dude that I, that I, that I want to be around or that I don’t want to be around. And there’s something about that, that I like. I like the, the, the ambiguity of it all. I like the mystique of it all. I like the fact that people are like, what is his deal? Like, what is it like, I just bought a pair of leather pants. Right? Can’t wait till they get here.

Jason Reynolds (00:40:55):
I can’t, I can’t wait. And, and the crazy thing about it also is the other thing that happened to me honestly, is I started making money when I started making money. Um, and I quit my job. I had to make practical decisions about how I was going to keep it. And so, as somebody who loves to get dressed, because both of my parents love to get dressed. We’re raised in a house to place value on the way you looked. Right. That was a very big part of my childhood, my childhood. Um, I knew that if I was gonna make smart decisions, I had to limit my options. Right. So I said, all right, what can I do where I’m always appropriate? Cause I’m also a fan. There’s nothing. I hate more than men, specifically who are inappropriately dressed at the worst part. Everybody knows the man who was on a date and his girl, his lady got on, like, she dressed to the night and he got on like his best Jordan’s.

Jason Reynolds (00:41:50):
I hate it. I hate it. Like, I have a hard time. It’s like, bro, grow up, like get a pair of shoes. Like what is happening? Right. Buy some boots, like, get you, get you, you know what I mean? Like get some leather print boots. Like Jason Reynolds, it, you summed up a pair of criminals. Like the kid, you know what I’m saying? Like that’s that’s but that’s my whole thing, right? Like what if I could just, if I can limit my, I wear the same kind of jeans. I wear one brand of jeans and that’s the company that I used to work for. Right. So I wear black jeans fit one or fit two are with two different kinds of t-shirts from two different brands. Right. And then just plain, plain black t-shirts they are plate. I mean, okay. It’s a, it’s a plain black t-shirt it’s plain black t-shirts and I wear jewelry from one place.

Jason Reynolds (00:42:40):
Right. So all of this comes from the one place I wear sneakers from one brand. I only wear one brand of sneakers. Can you say what brand golden goose that I’ve been wearing for years and years and years and years and years when everybody was like, I came to the East, going to lend money on dirty shoes. I can’t believe, but that was the whole thing we were in his shoes for years. I got like 40 pair. Right. I wear one kind of boot for the most part. And it’s sailor rock. Right? St. Lynn rock, Chelsea boot or a sailor rock, ring boot. Uh, I got, I’ve got four or five or six pair though. That’s the leopard boots. Right? I’ve got Salem rock boots. Like I’m so like, but that’s it. So it’s like, I have my mask and I wear and I wear, uh, and I went, I don’t have anything on right now, but yeah, that’s it. If you saw my father, he looked just like this with a wristwatch ring necklaces t-shirt jeans where it looks all played down, but it’s really all played up.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:43:42):
I beat game that it was played up, but I love that. It, um, what I, I realize is like how light you travel, you know, which is incredible.

Jason Reynolds (00:43:53):
What

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:43:53):
Is your process like when beginning your novels, do you storyboard or outline your ideas or do you,

Jason Reynolds (00:43:59):
Uh, free, right? I can’t, I can’t, you know, but somebody who didn’t do that well in school to outline this like doing work before you do the work and I ain’t trying to do double work. Like I just ain’t with it. You know what I mean? Even though I probably would be a more efficient writer if I did outline, but I, my, my honest theory behind it is if it, if it’s not an adventure for me, it won’t be an adventure for me. I don’t, I don’t need to know where it’s going. I just want to go on this journey. Where did you get your work ethic from? That’s that’s my parents. That’s my parents like that’s parents. And then, and then I had a moment in college. Well, just at the college, that changed me as well. So my mother, my mother started working when she was 15.

Jason Reynolds (00:44:39):
She took a job in the mail room of a insurance company when she was 15 here in DC. And she stayed at that company until she was 55, right. One job, right. From 15 to 55, my mom worked in the mail room up to the, to the executive office of an insurance company. And then, and then retired took a year off and then became a school teacher and retired this year at 75. Right? So we’re talking about a person who has spent their entire lives, just, just working my father, who though he was a hustler and doing all these odd jobs. He always, it was always working in it as a, and then as a psychologist. I mean, the dude is just like psychologists. And then he also invested in a bingo hall in Mexico. So he used to call on a bingo hall and like all this other little side stuff hustling.

Jason Reynolds (00:45:25):
He had a, he had a divorce, mediation, private practice. He had, you know, just like, you know what I mean? Like it’s just like, I come from working full right. Working at my mother and my mother, all of them use the worksheet. He would touch no real money. So I’m talking about working full, who was working to survive. And so the way that, the way that I was raised was my father would say, when we would have to do chores and stuff, which we all hated, he would be, he would say, take pride in your work. Right. It was like that mantra, right? Take pride, take pride in your work, everything you do, you do it as if your name going on everything, right? You take pride in your work. And my mother raised us to be, to be excused lists. Right. I tell people all the time I come from water list, water, less people, meaning I’ve never seen like my folks ain’t emote when we were kids, like as much as they love the one that’s in, like, I’ve never seen tears come out of my mother’s eyes.

Jason Reynolds (00:46:19):
I never seen that. Wasn’t it? It was, it was always about like, listen to me, you got time. You have to get the things done. Right? And so she’d say, go outside and rake the leaves. We rake the leaves and the wind would blow our neighbors leaves into the yard. And my mom would come back outside and say, y’all said I was done, but this leaves in the yard. And we’d say, they may not leave the neighbors leave that blew over it. And she would say, son, let me explain something to you by life. It is none of your business. What is happening in your neighbor’s yard, nor is it any, any business of yours to even be concerned about what the wind might do? You have been tasked, right. And your job is to complete said task period, the wind ain’t excuse and what’s happening next door and an excuse. Right? So, so, so, so, so like the happenstance, the happenstance of life don’t matter and your environment don’t matter, you got to get the thing done. Right. And that’s all I know

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:47:10):
My mother’s version of that was finding joy in your work. You know, you got to bring some joy to whatever it is.

Jason Reynolds (00:47:16):
It feels healthy. I wish I got to tell my mother that that was a little healthier.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:47:21):
It was the same message. It was cloaked in that

Jason Reynolds (00:47:26):
It’s been

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:47:26):
Announced recently that you’ll be writing a novel adults and I kept calling it an adult novel, realizing that that implied something else. Can we talk a little bit about that? The mouth lists God and Jesus number two.

Jason Reynolds (00:47:42):
Yeah. Mouth is God and Jesus. Number two, you know, the crazy thing about this story is it’s supposed to be for children. You know, I feel like this one’s for children, it’s for adults. It’s for adults, but it was supposed to, it was supposed to be for children, but I couldn’t, it just wasn’t working and everybody, I let read it. I turned in the first, like, I dunno, I had written it. This is my fourth time writing this book one time, it was like 600 pages. One time, it was like 130 pages. Like I’ve just been kind of trying to rework it and figure it out. And every time I let people read it, like if I give it to my agent and my editor, they’re like, Oh yeah, man, this is totally great. But definitely not for children. You know? And I’m like, what are y’all talking about?

Jason Reynolds (00:48:23):
Like this little boy, like 12, you know what I mean? And then finally, I let myself just go ahead and own the fact that this was an adult novel. And the basic premise is, um, I’ve been thinking a lot about epigenetics and this idea that like, if epigenetics is a real thing, if it’s, if we are certain that it is true, which we aren’t yet, they’re still sort of studying it and figuring out how it actually works. If it works, then what’s to say that a hundred years from now, black children, aren’t born without miles, which to say that little black girls and little black boys, aren’t born with holes already in their bodies, if in, but genetics is real, right. Like to think about the evolution of the, of the black body. Right. And the same way that men in general have no reason to have nipples now.

Jason Reynolds (00:49:04):
Right. We don’t have any biological reasons to have nipples. Right. And over the course of hundreds, thousands of years, right. We don’t know what, what the quote unquote male species was 5,000, 10,000 years ago. Maybe they need that. Maybe they could breastfeed. Right. Who knows? Right. But to think about what does that mean 5,000 years from now, that means that we’d have to also count slavery. Right? It’s like, all of that is the part of it because evolution, because it moves so slowly to us, but it’s actually like 5,000 years. Ain’t no time for the history of the world. Right. And so what does it say 5,000 yesterday, if there still is a world black children will be born mouse lists. And, and I wanted to imagine what that would be like, not from a standpoint of suffering though, like this little boy ain’t suffering, he fine.

Jason Reynolds (00:49:50):
He chiller. But from the standpoint of how exactly does he live and survive? And he lives on stories, right? These are his miles, right? He’s ears. His ears are his mouth. And he’s satiated of the stories of his family because that’s really who we are anyway. That’s the way it’s working now. So he’s always worked, right. I am who I am because of what I know about my mother and my grandmother and my grandfather, because of what I know about my people. I get to stay in here because of what I know about. And it’s a story about how this young man acquires a mouth, he does get one, but the way he has to get one is interesting and complicated. And it involves millions of other math of kids. And it involves, I mean, there’s myths and there’s lore and there’s, there’s a little bit of everything in this thing.

Jason Reynolds (00:50:34):
And it’s like, this is a, uh, an ambitious project. Uh, it is due soon and I ain’t written much of it. So we’ll see how it goes. But like I say, I live in the deep water. If it ain’t hard, I ain’t with it. I don’t know. I’m not interested in doing the easy thing. So we’ll see, when will it come out 2022, which means it’s gotta be turned in very soon so that we can go through the editorial process, go through, you know what I mean? Like this thing is due in the next couple of months. And so I, uh, I’m getting ready to disappear hopefully in December banished to get away and can get it

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:51:12):
Recently in a project called for everyone which debuted on August 26, eight, 26 day marking a celebration of youth voices in the pursuit of dreams. What I was noticing in that video is that it was coming somewhat full circle because you were reciting a poem, right? You were having your song Williams moment for this short film. Do you see more poetry in your future or any kind of albums or recorded material?

Jason Reynolds (00:51:39):
I don’t think so. I don’t know. I really want to write a collection of poems. I still love poetry, right? Like I love anything. That’s word, like language. I love language. I love, I mean, like I wanted to write a collection of poems, you know, that famous photograph, American Gothic. Yes. The famous photograph from Gordon parks, a young Gordon. This is Gordon parks before he was famous, right? Young Gordon parks working for the WPA, the only black person assigned the only black photographer assigned to do this work NBC and this woman, he was cleaning. He went into shoot a woman who was a char woman, but they used to call the char woman who my grandmother, my grandmother was a child woman. Uh, these are the women that would clean the government offices. Right? So this one was a custodian for USDA. And we’ve seen the photograph of her holding the map right in front of the American flag, but won’t know nothing about it.

Jason Reynolds (00:52:32):
And if you look at it, the whole photo set, I mean, Gordon parks goes to her house, gets her story. Like her, her husband had died, left her, but they don’t say how, which is interesting. Left her with two kid or her daughter or stepdaughter, a grandchild and his little teeny one bedroom apartment. They got pictures of her at church. They got, I mean, just like this is like a documentation, this woman’s life. Not just, we only see her as a janitor, but there’s a whole other part of her life that is that Gordon parks explores that we don’t ever get to see much of, unless you can see the whole set. And I wanted to write a whole collection of poems about her, about who she might’ve been. Right. Uh, you know, just sort of a pistol, Larry poems, poems, drastic poems about, about these, about this artwork and these photographs, but also just imagining for life and imagining who she was or who she might’ve been. Or she could have been, if she weren’t a black American in this time, that’s something on my list of things to do. We’ll see,

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:53:33):
I look forward to it. I’m sure that’ll be summer 20, 22 after, because that’s how you

Jason Reynolds (00:53:38):
Work.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:53:41):
You can’t just have one project coming out. You got to have,

Jason Reynolds (00:53:43):
Yeah, we got this covered. I, you seen this yet. Congratulations. Have you seen the images in it? It is gorgeous. I’m really, it comes out soon. I don’t know, like in a couple of weeks I think, but

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:53:58):
This is a podcast. Jason is holding graphic novelization a long way down. Who’s the illustrator.

Jason Reynolds (00:54:05):
Her name is Danica Gordo. She’s amazing. And I’m super grateful and proud of what, what she made
Maori Karmael Holmes (00:54:11):

Your voice changed since your first book. And are you seeing a pattern at all in what you’re writing about or how you know, who your characters are? Is there a thread?

Jason Reynolds (00:54:22):
And my voice changes every day, right? It’s changing regularly. It’s the reason why I write so much because if I take too long on any given project, I got to start over because the voice has changed so much because I’m learning everything I’m consuming, right. And with consumption comes influence. It’s completely, I think my voice is completely different, but I don’t think my books feel different. And I liked that. I like that. Like, you can pick up a book, read it and be like, this feels like adjacent. It’s like balling or Toni Morrison for that matter. Or you can, you can pick up any of Toni Morrison’s books. They all different. But when you reading it, you’re like, this feels like Toni Morrison’s writing, right. James Baldwin write these long sort of illustrative and ornate sentences. It’s like, this feels like James Baldwin is feet. Right. And I think, I think the rhythm of my work, um, I think, I think I understand what I’m doing, not in terms of writing, but in terms of just me, like who I am on the page, I never know what I’m doing in terms of writing.

Jason Reynolds (00:55:16):
I still don’t feel that good. I’m working very hard to get better at this thing. But I do know what I offer this space in terms of style, what my style is, what I offer this space. And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful to just know, to be able to know, like I got, I got a thing that I can put in these books to people that say, Oh, that’s that thing that Jason does. You know what I mean? Like that’s that’s so that’s, to me, that’s wonderful. What was the other question? Oh, the characters mean, is there a through line? Yeah. All the boys cry. All the boys crowd. That was important for me. It still is. I just want, I want my younger brothers just, you know, tell you the secrets to the pages. That’s all, you see you, you reading it and you see yourself.

Jason Reynolds (00:55:58):
And I know you don’t always feel like you can do those things. So you got to say, it’s okay for you to sort of share you hide your secrets in those pages. Right. And that’s the reason why I’ve created vulnerable boy characters all the time. I think it’s important. So that that’s a through line in all of my, in all of my books. For sure. Just beautiful. Like the beauty of blackness, I’m doing this thing now. I’m, I’m writing, you know, these are captain underpants books, right? Either like that weird space between the picture book and the middle grade. That’s like first and second grade. So I’m writing a series right now. I’m working on a series right now about a little black boy whose parents are going through the loss and he lives in an apartment building. He’s got his home girl is called stuck boy in the meantime.

Jason Reynolds (00:56:36):
And I’m excited. I’m excited to see it. I’m excited to tap into that new space. It’s super hard to write these things because they’re only 3,004,000 words. Um, but even just thinking about like, can I, can I create enough of this work where I can have a reader read Jason Reynolds books, a black boy or a black girl read Jason Reynolds from the age one to 18. Right. And I’d be, I’d probably be, I mean, there’s not many of us who’ve ever done it this way, right. To say like, you can read the whole Canon all the way up through, and then, and then enter the adult space. Right. That’s that’s my goal.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:57:08):
Is there adjacent Reynolds film or interior design practice in your future?

Jason Reynolds (00:57:14):
There is some film stuff, for sure. I’m learning, I’m learning that and learning how to write that. And I’ve got some cool mentors, Joe and Paul, who are the guys who may regret and Hey Arnold and all those guys, um, they’ve been kind of, they’ve agreed to kind of sit with me and really kind of, they’re working on some other stuff with me, look both ways as they, as they’re doing that project for some folks, but they they’ve been helpful because I don’t believe in doing anything without mentorship. Like I just come from a certain, I believe in that tradition of things. And that sort of held me up when they came to this film thing, because we would like to just do it. It don’t matter, bro. Just do it, just do it. And I’m like, man, that feels super disrespectful. Like I got too many friends who have been rather right.

Jason Reynolds (00:57:57):
Who’ve been dedicated their life to this. And, and finally got her swing. What I look like trying to skip the line. Like I just don’t. I just don’t believe in that personally. And you know, everybody got their own thing, but I’m just kinda like, yo, let me, let me take the proper channels. Let me get some education. Let me get some OGs. Because I believe when you see somebody come into a space, you check the person and say who you came through, like who, who? And I just believe in that. So these brothers are helping me out. And so there will be some film stuff, interior design stuff, uh, outside of my own home. Now I don’t think of them. I don’t think so. I would love to someday maybe when this is all over, I,

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:58:33):
I didn’t know if you’re going to get your Lenny Kravitz on, you know, and start designing furniture. Know,

Jason Reynolds (00:58:37):
Hey man, I want to, I want to show up. But if I did it, I’d have to do it. I couldn’t do it. Then he grabbed his way. I’d have to do it. The Daniel Day Lewis way where he just went on, he was, he wanted to be a Shoemaker. So he went there and apprentice with a cobbler, right? Like that. I’m not going to do it. I got it. That’s just how I am. I just believe in that kind of stuff. Yeah.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:58:58):
So we’re we’re at the end. Might we’ll talk about movies. Well, what do you want?

Jason Reynolds (00:59:03):
All right. Have you been watching season four Fargo cause me and he talked about TV all the time on that. We want you to be on your show, but we ain’t. We talk about TV all the time.

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:59:14):
That’s our personal lives. That’s not the focus of this show, but if you want to talk about, I have not seen Fargo yet. Um, I also

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:59:22):
Haven’t brought it up because I’m quite behind on everything. So I haven’t seen Lovecraft country. I haven’t seen, I will just, I may destroy you.

Jason Reynolds (00:59:34):
What are you doing? All right. I’ll let you up. We’ll talk about it later. When you catch up, what are you watching right now? And watching Fargo and watching Lovecraft. I watched this like barbecue contest show that was lit. I watched the news, the new season of chef’s table. But what

Maori Karmael Holmes (00:59:53):
About 90 day? Fiance? You still watching that?

Jason Reynolds (00:59:55):
Of course this was the reunion week, but isn’t it. The reunion I listened, we all got to have a little junk food. We got to have some fiance, despite the wild cultural politics that at some point it should be parsed out. It’s actually some tricky stuff happening there. Um, but yeah, I mean that’s good TV and I’ve been watching like the Lakers play and I’ve been watching. Uh, did you watch Perry? Mason was dope. You haven’t talked about this yet. Rich was LBJ, ratchet, ratchet, nurse ratchet. No. So I mean,

Maori Karmael Holmes (01:00:35):
That’s been going on with me is that, you know, I’m in a new apartment and I’ve been focusing on like just being really organized in the space. And then I’ve been working on a film project,

Jason Reynolds (01:00:47):
Um, and I’ve been watching movies

Maori Karmael Holmes (01:00:49):
And reading. And so I haven’t been watching serialized television as much as I’d like to, but I have been since the Emmy’s I’ve gone back to Schitt’s Creek and started with season one. So that’s what I’m currently watching. And I can kind of only handle one show at a time. So when that’s over, then I’ll, I’ll go down the list.

Jason Reynolds (01:01:08):
Have you seen Wendy yet? Did we talk about this Wendy? Like the remaking, the Peter pan I’m obsessed. It’s like, I’ve seen this movie 50 times. It’s an Apple Apple, but it’s called windy is bothered by that. But the folks who did piece of the Southern wild and it’s like a retelling of Peter pan and I watched when I was writing my, as I’m working on my adult novel, like that is like, that is my color path. Like my palette, right. That I’m looking at it, like that’s my move bullet. That whole movie is exactly what I’m trying to make. Like it is. It’s just check it out.

Maori Karmael Holmes (01:01:42):
I think this actually goes into the final question. You know, we started off, I think before we started recording, talking about how much you’re working and I get the sense that you are always taking care of people. And I have two questions for you. And one is who is taking care of you and how do you find refuge?

Jason Reynolds (01:02:04):
Who’s taking care of me, man. I think that’s sort of the question. Uh, you know, it’s a tough question to ask. I don’t know. I do know this. Um, I’m trying to go back to therapy cause I, the think, I just think I need that. You know what mean? And I was, I had a therapist and I don’t right now looking for a new therapist. So I think that’ll be helpful. And honestly, I don’t, what I require is so small, so little. And so the small moments I have with my mom, just small moments, right? Not nothing crazy my mom had got do not for me ever again, but to sit down with her and to just sit, to just sit in a room with her is a, is refilling. You know, I’m going to see my father this Sunday. We’re going to like smoke cigars and talk trash and you’ll ask me to buy him a gold watch.

Jason Reynolds (01:02:52):
Cause he always does. You know, like that’s, you know, it’s like, um, and, and I think that will be so good for me. Just I don’t, I just don’t need much. I’m not a person who likes to celebrate himself. I don’t need all the noise and the hullabaloo and all the, I just, I just need for someone every night. I mean, like you check on me all the time, you know what I mean? That matters to me, these little small things, people say, Hey, checking in how you been, how you doing that’s enough, man, because I think there’s so many people in my life who just it’s like, what can we get from them? Take, take, take, take, take. But the few people who do reach out and say, Hey man, just checking in or amen. Love you thinking about you. That that goes a long way for me in terms of my personal refuge, you know, I love a long drive.

Jason Reynolds (01:03:39):
Like that’s my jam. Give me, give me six hours on the road. You know what I mean? Let me, let me drive to Charleston. You know what I mean? Like whatever, let me drive to Boston. I don’t care. I just want there’s something about the open road, uh, with my music on my podcast or some, some silence. Uh, I love that. I love a good walk, a long walk around the city. It’s amazing. Like just I’m simple. And that way I don’t, I just don’t require, you know, I live in DC with the Smithsonian is I go to the museum, I’m around walk along the national mall. It’s beautiful down there and kind of recalibrate and that’s enough to be a good meal. I eat, you know, I love to, I love as you know, I love a good fancy meal with a glass of Rose or, you know, a gin on the rocks by myself.

Jason Reynolds (01:04:31):
Give me the newspaper and or good book. And I’m good. I’m good. Like I’m super easy in that way. And that’s, it that’s enough refuge for me. I’m good to go. And Arizona, when I get a chance, uh, I’m a, I’m an Arizona guy. I love Arizona. That’s like my Sedona or just not even, not even so doughnut yet. So don’t of course Flagstaff is dope. Tucson is dope. Like, um, I it’s it’s the, the American Southwest in general is like a sweet spot for me. It’s like, it’s like a spiritual place for me, for whatever reason. There’s something about it that I gravitate towards. I, I love it. And the drive, when I, when I bridge my two forms of refuge and drive from Los Angeles to Arizona or from Arizona to Los Angeles, I don’t think there’s a stretch of land in America.

Jason Reynolds (01:05:20):
More special that most of us don’t take it. But you say route 66 and most of us don’t take advantage of how it’s, it’s almost like a miracle that a place on earth could look like that. And most of us just don’t know, we just don’t see it. We don’t meet any fly over it, you know? And it’s really, um, it does something to you chemically when you, when you were driving through the red rocks and the sun in the sky is big, right? And the land is in the land is Brown and his cat died and a house every six miles in the, in the reservation. And I mean like it’s, uh, it’s like what America once was. And there’s something about that, that I, uh, I don’t know, it speaks to me. So I hope you get some of that refuge soon. Thanks for having me on. Thank you later. Bye [inaudible].

Maori Karmael Holmes (01:06:29):
Thank you for listening to this episode of many lumens, visit us at manylumens.com to subscribe and follow us on Instagram and Twitter, @manylumens. Many Lumens is brought to you by Blackstar. This episode was produced by Patrice Worthy and Farrah Rahaman edited by David Adams and engineered by Mike Maholick. Our music supervisor is Rashid Zakat. Our theme song was composed by VJ Mohan and remixed by David DJ, little Dave Adams. Sending you light and see you next time.



Find us wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Subscribe