Q&A With Kwame Alexander
Newbery Award-winning Author Kwame Alexander came to AHS on Oct. 5 as part of his tour promoting his new book, Swing. After his talk, he sat down with The Revolution for an interview.
October 19, 2018
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Q: How did you get started writing?
Alexander: “Girls. Trying to impress girls. Y’know, I wasn’t, like, the best communicator, but I could write a poem. I found that girls were interested in my own poems. So, in college, I had dates with girls who read my poems. I got married because I wrote poetry. So it started with me trying to be able to express myself with girls.”
Q: Who encouraged to to pursue writing? How?
A: “My mother and my father—they were both writers— and my professor in college, Nikki Giovanni. I cannot stress how important it is to have teachers who care about you and what you’re trying to do. I feel like teachers can help you develop into somebody positive and powerful, or they can destroy you.”
Q: Can you talk about the 2015 Newbery Medal you received for the book, Crossover? What did this mean for you?
A: “It was my 15th book, and to win a Newbery Medal was the big, defining moment of my professional life. To be able to win a writing award that significant—this meant that my books were going to be available for kids worldwide. It meant that I was going to have a larger audience. So, yeah, It meant the world to me.”
Q: Of the books you have written, which is your favorite? Why?
A: “I don’t have a favorite. They’re all like my little children, y’know? But my favorite today is Swing because it just came out last week. So that’s the one that’s my favorite right now.”
Q: Can you talk about your new book, Swing? What makes this book different from your previous books?
A: “It’s the hardest book i’ve ever had to write. It’s about jazz music, it’s about baseball, it’s about love, and it’s also about social justice. I’m writing about a topic that is pretty heavy, and i’m trying to do it in a way that changes minds and impacts people in a positive way.”
Q: What force has jazz and basketball played in your life?
A: “Basketball—i’m a huge fan of it. I love watching it, but, y’know, I wasn’t that good at it. I think it’s a great metaphor for our lives.”
A: “I love jazz music in the sense that it’s the music I write to. If i’m not writing a book, i’m listening to jazz music. I think jazz… jazz is what brown sugar would sound like if it was sprinkled in your ear.”
Q: Is there a goal that you’re working toward? What is it?
A: “Yeah. To make the world a better place. I think everyone should strive to do their part, to be better, to do good, to become more human. Yeah, I think everyone should be about that. I think if we all do that, the world would be a better place. I feel like my purpose in this world is to make the world a better place.”