With clear language and bracing honesty,
Jason Reynolds’s young-adult novels grapple
with thorny issues (alcohol abuse, gun violence, police brutality) in contemporary urban
settings, offering a subset of readers a literary
mirror they’ve never had before. Last fall, the
D.C.-born writer tackled a new form—the novel
in verse—with Long Way Down, which follows
Will, a 15-year-old boy dealing with the shooting death of his brother. The book hit the New
York Times best-seller list and was a National
Book Award fnalist. Reynolds followed up
this spring with the poem “For Every One”
and the middle-school-age novel Sunny.
You’ve said that you draw from real life in
creating your characters. Who inspired Will?
When I was 19, I lost a dear friend to murder. The pain
was so heavy, I was certain that I could have taken a
life and been okay with it. I think that America has a
tough time speaking about anger honestly, and
young people don’t know how to relate to their anger
in a healthy way. If it wasn’t for my buddy’s mother
begging us to leave it alone, I’m not sure I’d be talking
to you right now.
How do you know what will resonate with
younger readers? It’s dangerous for adults to feel
like they can speak for young people if they’ve never
spoken to young people. The other side is that you
have to be able to listen—to ask them the right questions, [ones] that may be a bit uncomfortable. And to
listen [not just] to their answers, but to what they
aren’t telling you.
Do you feel any pressure for your novels to reflect
the current political climate? My job is to illuminate
that which is perennial in our country, whether it’s
poverty, racism, sexism, anger, pain, trauma, love, fear,
happiness, or marginalization. If I’m writing honest
work, young people will be able to read a story and
then make the connection to the current political climate. That’s far more important: How can we teach
our young people how to think and not what to think?
FOR FINDING POETRY
Saskatchewan-born siblings Chad and Jared Moldenhauer’s frst video
game—the visually stunning run-and-gunner Cuphead—sold more
than 2 million units between its late-September 2017 release and the
end of the year. Forgoing super-realistic 3-D graphics, Cuphead uses
hand-drawn animation inspired by 1930s “rubber hose”–style cartoons
(think Steamboat Willie) and an original big-band score as the backdrop for an action game that’s addictive yet easy to master. Cuphead
was infuenced in part by “studying a lot of games” from the Sega Master era, says Chad, a former digital marketer who taught himself to
draw by watching old cartoons. Jared, who had worked for the family’s
construction business, designed the game play while Chad’s wife,
Maja, hand-inked its visuals. The Moldenhauers mortgaged their
homes to fnish production; a development deal with Microsoft helped
with marketing and promotion. While Cuphead appeals to “a nostalgia
for any kind of handmade art,” Chad says, it’s also just a nice break.
“One can only take so many brown landscapes and bald white dudes.”
THE PROBLEM: LeBron James was
leaving the Miami Heat in 2014.
Omar Raja, a 20-year-old Central
Florida University sophomore,
was bummed and looking to console himself by watching funny in-game clips of James on You Tube.
There weren’t any.
THE EPIPHANY: Raja began using his
iPhone to capture quirky game
moments off the TV. Why not
THE EXECUTION: Raja set up the
House of Highlights Instagram
account and began posting his
clips. Soon he was also uploading
highlights sent to him by friends.
House of Highlights founder,
37 / 38
For inking a video-game hit
Chad and Jared Moldenhauer
Cofounders, directors, Studio MDHR
THE RESULT: Bleacher Report
acquired HoH in 2015, and
since then the account has
grown to more than 8 million
followers (including A-listers
like Cristiano Ronaldo, Nicki
Minaj, and LeBron himself).
HoH sponsors now include
Under Armour and Lexus.
Raja signed You Tube star
Supremedreams_ 1 to develop
scripted content for HoH’s
You Tube channel. The key to
connecting with his gen Z audi-
ence is authenticity, Raja says,
adding, “The second I start
selling out is when things go
downward.” I l l u