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“You’re All Cupcakes”; A Review of Jason Reynolds’ Visit to CCDS


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By Aadhya Ramineni ’20, A&E Section Editor and Nellie Shih ’19, A&E Section Editor

On Thursday, October 12, award-winning author Jason Reynolds visited our school. He gave a talk during assembly, followed by a Q and A in the library. That morning, Reynolds was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule to answer some of our questions.

As a kid in high school, Reynolds said he had “no exact idea” what he wanted to do when he grew up. Where he grew up, most people just saw basic businessmen and athletes as possible careers. But unlike everyone else, Reynolds wanted to write. He was inspired by people like Langston Hughes, and especially Queen Latifah. Surprisingly, Jason wrote a lot of poetry in high school, but no prose. In fact, Jason didn’t even read books until he was in college.

When asked how he made the risky decision to become an author in a world that is STEM-focused, Reynolds said, “what worth doing is not risky?”. He continued, saying that if you embrace who you are from a young age “it fortifies you when you know what you want to be.” You have to live with what you choose to do, so “if you want liberal arts and everyone else is telling you not to, do what you want to do. Do that thing your gut is telling you.” Reynolds went on to say that our generation has the potential to be great, but we have a flaw: we are “cupcakes.” If there’s one thing Reynolds wants us and our generation to take away from his talk, it’s that “[our] generation has all the info, but [we] are soft. If things get tough, [we] get nervous. Toughen up. Risky, Tough—are [we] going to do it or not?” During our extended discussion in the library, Reynolds also spoke on the importance of the humanities: “Humanities are necessary—there is nothing else to live for if there is no art.” The humanities are “woven into the fabric of who we are.” He argued that science and math are nothing without art. Without art, the iPhone wouldn’t have been revolutionary. Without art, we would all be living in a bland world wearing potato sacks or something. “It doesn’t work without the humanities.”

When asked who his biggest inspiration was, Reynolds said “[his] momma” without hesitation. He describes her as altruistic and persistent: it took her 13 years to get her bachelor’s degree. Reynolds’s mother is now a teacher, but he said she should have started teaching sooner because she was passionate about it. Everyone told her that she shouldn’t teach, and so she listened. She ended up working the same job for 40 years and never made over $50,000 a year. Reynolds looks up to that grit and the fact she raised multiple kids on her own, and even beat cancer twice. Reynolds went on to describe who else inspires him the most: young people – the “antidote for hopelessness.” Despite the fact he called us cupcakes, he told us when he thinks about this generation – our generation – of young people stepping into leadership positions in the world he believes “we’re going to be okay.

On the topic of diversifying the books students read in high school, Reynolds said that he didn’t read a single book in high school because they were unrelatable. To Kill a Mockingbird was one of the many “unreal” books which he could make “no connection” to but was required to read. Reynolds believes we should diversify the books we read at school so that more students develop interest in literature. He thinks teachers should “teach classics up against contemporary books.” He suggested that The West Side Story, a modern-day play based off of Romeo and Juliet, is taught alongside Romeo and Juliet. However, when asked about book-to-movie adaptations, Reynolds said “trash. Next question… Just kidding.” Reynolds explained how he believes book-to-movie adaptations are not true to the book: books are long, and when they’re condensed into two-hour movies, a lot is cut from the story. If one page is the equivalent of one to two minutes, a 300-page book is already a lot longer than two hours. When you’re left with the fraction of the book that fits into two hours, it breaks the message of the book away. But, Reynolds did mention that he has been approached about turning his books into movies in the past, but wasn’t interested in going through with it. As for his work on Spider-Man, he wouldn’t want his Spider-Man movie to be cut like the rest of the Marvel movies. He talked about how his writes about Miles Morales as a character with him being Spider-Man in addition to who he is. Unless they did that right, he wouldn’t want to see his particular story on the big screen. “Unless they do it like Black Panther. Have you seen that trailer?”

Reynolds believes we’re in a “desperate need of empathy.” In today’s society, there’s a severe lack of empathy, but Reynolds elaborated and said that “who I am is all that exists.” We are not the labels that are given to us. Everyone is human. “There’s this Maya Angelou quote, ‘We are all human, therefore nothing human can be alien to us.’ I just need you to be a human.” Reynolds felt that there was a lack of humanity and compassion in his childhood, and would like to see that change for kids today. Reynolds also stressed that our differences should be talked about freely; these simple things need to be talked about to bring bigger things to the surface. We need a more inclusive world. Like Michael Fosberg, Reynolds talked about discomfort: “Discomfort is a good thing. Don’t be afraid of it.” We should be sharing the discomfort we may feel towards people of difference races and genders or with disabilities

But before he left, Reynolds shared his two mantras with us, which are: “Process before progress.” – You have to do the work. There is no alternative path to success and “Excellence is a habit.”- You develop a habit for the things you practice. Whether your habit is failure or excellence is up to you.

 

 

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“You’re All Cupcakes”; A Review of Jason Reynolds’ Visit to CCDS