National Book Awards Festival

Jason Reynolds

Photo credit: Ben Fractenberg

Jason Reynolds

2016 Finalist in Young People’s Literature for Ghost (2017 Longlist in YPL for Long Way Down)

Jason Reynolds is a New York Times bestselling author, a Newbery Award Honoree, a Printz Award Honoree, National Book Award Honoree, a Kirkus Award winner, a two time Walter Dean Myers Award winner, an NAACP Image Award Winner, and the recipient of multiple Coretta Scott King honors. Reynolds was the American Booksellers Association’s 2017 spokesperson for Indies First, and will serve as the national spokesperson for the 2018 celebration of School Library Month in April 2018, sponsored by the American Association of School Librarians (AASL). Jason’s many works of fiction include When I Was the Greatest, Boy in the Black Suit, All American Boys (cowritten with Brendan Kiely), As Brave As You, For Every One, the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and Lu), and Long Way Down, which received both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor. He lives in Washington, DC. You can find his ramblings at JasonWritesBooks.com.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down

Will has known about the rules ever since his childhood friend was killed on the playground, and he’s followed the first two: no crying, and no snitching. When his older brother, Shawn, is shot and killed while walking home from the store, Will knows he is expected to follow the final rule and avenge his brother’s death. He knows where Shawn keeps his gun, and he thinks he knows who the shooter is: a member of a rival gang named Riggs. Even if Will has never used a gun—never even held a gun before—rules are rules. But in the elevator on the way down to meet Riggs, Will encounters family and friends who died playing by the rules, and now Will has to decide what he is going to do when the elevator reaches its final stop.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Ghost

Castle Cranshaw (nicknamed Ghost) learned how fast he could run the night his father was arrested. Running is never something he plans to do, just like he never plans to get into altercations at school. Running just happens. Then, one day, Ghost comes across a practice in the park and decides to race one of the sprinters, a decision that leads him to join Coach Brody’s elite track team: the Defenders. Coach Brody takes a chance on Ghost and gives him a future to run toward, but only if Ghost can learn to let go of the things he’s been running from.


Danez Smith

Photo credit: Beotis Creative

Danez Smith

2017 Finalist in Poetry for Don’t Call Us Dead

Danez Smith is a Black, queer, poz writer & performer from St. Paul, MN. They are the author of [insert] boy (YesYes Books, 2014), winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Selected as a 2017 National Book Award finalist, Danez recently released their 2nd full collection, Don't Call Us Dead, published by Graywolf Press in September of 2017. Danez is the recipient of fellowships from the Poetry Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, and is a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow. Their work has been featured widely on platforms such as The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Buzzfeed, the New Yorker & the New York Times.

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

Don’t Call Us Dead

Don’t Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality—the dangers experienced in skin, body, and blood—and a diagnosis of HIV positive. “some of us are killed / in pieces,” Smith writes, “some of us all at once.” Don’t Call Us Deadis an astonishing collection, one that confronts America where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.


Lisa Ko

Photo credit: Bartosz Potocki

Lisa Ko

2017 Finalist in Fiction for The Leavers

Lisa Ko is the author of The Leavers, a novel which was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction and won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Her writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, O. Magazine, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the MacDowell Colony, among others. Born in Queens and raised in Jersey, she lives in Brooklyn.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

The Leavers

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother Polly goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. Left with no one to care for him, eleven-year-old Deming is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.
A vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging, The Leavers is the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away—and how one woman learns to live with the mistakes of her past.