Jugendbuchautor Jason Reynolds über seine neue Buchreihe, Geheimnisse und die (Un-)Bequemlichkeit des Laufens
Jugendbuchautor Jason Reynolds über seine neue Buchreihe, Geheimnisse und die (Un-)Bequemlichkeit des Laufens
Im September war der amerikanische Jugendbuchautor Jason Reynolds auf Lesereise in Deutschland. Im ZDF-Morgenmagazin, beim Internationalen Literaturfestival in Berlin und bei verschiedenen (Schul-)Lesungen in ganz Deutschalnd sprach Jason Reynolds über seinen Roman »Ghost. Jede Menge Leben« und die vier Jugendlichen, die in seiner insgesamt vier Bände umfassenden Buchreihe aus den unterschiedlichsten Gründen im Laufteam ›The Defenders‹ trainieren.
Mit seinen Büchern möchte Jason Reynolds die Lebenswelt von Jugendlichen, ihre Probleme und Hoffnungen – aber genauso aktuelle politische Themen – authentisch einfangen. Davon zeugt auch die einzigartige, aus dem Leben der Jugendlichen gegriffene Sprache in seinen Büchern.
Auch die LESEPUNKTE haben im Rahmen seiner Lesereise mit dem Bestsellerautor gesprochen: über Weltrekorde, schlechte und gute VerliererInnen, die Bedeutung von Geheimnissen und viele weitere Themen, wie ihr im Interview nachlesen könnt.
[Aufgrund der höheren Authentizität des O-Tons wurde das Interview von der LESEPUNKTE-Redaktion nicht ins Deutsche übersetzt.]
LESEPUNKTE: ‘Ghost’, ‘Patina’, ‘Sunny‘ and ‘Lu’ – four young characters from wildly different backgrounds but with a similar hobby: together they are competing on an elite track team. Why did you choose running as type of sport for your novel series?
Jason Reynolds: I think running is the only form of athleticism every human has to do. You walk and then you run. That’s why I think there is a connecting line amongst all human beings. Everybody knows how terrible it feels to be out of breath. Everybody knows the muscle aches, the back aches, that feeling your brain telling your body to shut down. And what I wanted to talk about was: In order to be good at running, you have to be comfortable with that feeling. You have to be comfortable with the discomfort. Comfortable with the feeling of drowning – the feeling of dying almost. And that’s the way it works. Your body won’t feel you but your brain will tell you otherwise. And so you have to be comfortable with pushing yourself past the point of discomfort. And I believe that there are a lot of kids who are uncomfortable because of the environments, because of their family dynamics, because of school, who are comfortable with a feeling like they’re going to die, who are comfortable with a feeling like they’re going to drown. And I wanted to write about these kids. And I think that’s the best thing you can do, to identify with a character outside of themselves that feels like someone that they know.
LESEPUNKTE: Ghost is really interested in World Records. Do you have a favorite one?
Jason Reynolds: That’s a good question. I mean there are some really interesting ones, like a guy who has trapped himself in a box, the smallest box ever, and silly things like that. When I was growing up though, there was a guy, I can’t remember his name, but he held the World Record for saying the most amount of words in a minute, something like that. It was pretty amazing, just the way that he was able to pronounce the language in a very rapid pace. And back in the day they had really interesting World Records. For example, you could have a World Record for “The worlds tallest man” or “The worlds longest hair”, like this kind of thing that I really loved.
LESEPUNKTE: Would you like to break the World Record for selling the most books?
Jason Reynolds: That would be great. It would be cool to break a World record for something like ‘Wrote the most books in the least amount of time – the most good books in the least amount of time’, something like that.
LESEPUNKTE: You said that you want the kids to identify with your book. Do you have a role model or a favorite author on your part, that also writes in natural voice, which is so typical for you?
Jason Reynolds: Actually I have a lot of them: Walter Dean Myers or Jesmyn Ward for example. A lot of the contemporary writers are using the natural voice these days. …(?) from America was one of the greatest writers of the natural voice. When she did it in the 1950’s, she was insulted, they didn’t like it, they thought that she’s being ignorant. That it was wounding the English language, but really she was trying to show the way people actually speak in that part of the country. And that paved the way for people like me. And then there’s rap music, there isn’t a more natural voice than that. It’s like: This is it, this is who I am. Which I of course grew up listening to, like Queen Latifah or 2Pac. I mean those are my greatest influencers, just people who allowed me to believe that our natural voice is valuable.
LESEPUNKTE: In other interviews you said that when you were at school you did not have to read any books that are written in a natural voice. Do you think that changed up to now?
Jason Reynolds: I think it’s changing. I think teachers are realizing that kids want to read something that sounds familiar. You know the literature industry is fighting against technology for so long. Video games, cell phones, YouTube. All these things they were fighting against, but really they should be fighting with them. Because you can’t beat them. If I can’t beat the video games, if I can’t beat YouTube, I need to figure out how to work with them, with the video games, tap into their language, tap into that feeling, that energy to engage people for who they are, not for whom we want them to be.
LESEPUNKTE: Mr. Charles and the trainer always give Ghost a lot of good advices and try to get him back on track. Do you have a person in your life who is symbolizing this for you?
Jason Reynolds: Yes, my mum. She is always pulling me back to the middle. When I’m about to go too far, my mum is grounding me and is like a compass that’s reminding me which way I’m supposed to be going. But when I was a kid, you see Mr. Charles and the coach, they are real men. I grew up, living on my own and they were there to guide me and to ground me.
LESEPUNKTE: What’s probably the most important advice that those people gave to you?
Jason Reynolds: Their advice came more in the way they treated me. It was less about what they said and more about who they were and how they treated me, how they made sure that I was home safely, how they never judged me for who I was. I think one of the biggest lessons for me is “The greatest gift we could give a child is our humanity” – and that humanity requires us to recognize the humanity in us. You don’t have to say too much, when you can listen. If you could listen to a child, you said more than you could ever say by using your mouth – just by listening to a child.
LESEPUNKTE: I read things between the lines when it comes to Mr. Charles: That he is forgetting a lot of stuff for example do. We get back to him in the next books? And do we get to know the story behind his character?
Jason Reynolds: We get to him in the third book. But we don’t get to know too much. It’s tricky because you only have a limited amount of space and time. You know he comes from a complicated family, you know that his family does not approve of his choices even though he built this wonderful life. But you actually hear by him in the third and the fourth book, so he’s around.
LESEPUNKTE: Do you have a favorite character in your novel series?
Jason Reynolds: I love Ghost, but also Patina. I think she is actually the best character. She is amazing. I think she is dynamic and layered in so many ways and I think she is the most interesting of all, her home life is so interesting, which read in the second book.
LESEPUNKTE: Inspired by Patinas character: When it comes to a competition, are you a bad or a good loser?
Jason Reynolds: A terrible loser. I don’t like to lose. You know, a famous athlete in America told me “You show me a good loser, and I show you a loser.” So I don’t like to lose, and everytime I loose I am angry.
LESEPUNKTE: Running gives Patty and Ghost a lot, that’s the way they find out who they are. Would you say that writing for you is what for them is running or is it something different?
Jason Reynolds: I guess some of it is about finding out who I am, but most of it is more about creating framework for who I am, because a lot of this stuff happens when you are younger. And I know who I am, now looking back at my sixteen year old self. This is a way to put it in a capsule as a way to say this is a nice snapchat of who I was and maybe it could be used to decorate the internal rooms of young people around the world. You hang my portrait on the wall. And I think that’s the way I kind of think of it.
LESEPUNKTE: What a beautiful view on your own work! Ghost is really in love with his silver shoes and is taking them with him without paying, because he really wants to have them. Did you have a favorite pair of shoes in your youth?
Jason Reynolds: I was wanting a pair of Jordans. I got a pair when I graduated from high school, my mum gave them to me as a gift and she would never buy them before then because she never wanted to spend the money. But then I had them and loved them so much.
LESEPUNKTE: Did you run them down?
Jason Reynolds: Oh I killed them. Because I didn’t know how to take care of things, but I loved them so much, they were my favorite for sure.
LESEPUNKTE: How did you come up with the idea of Ghost cutting his shoes to be part of the track team?
Jason Reynolds: I just asked myself what would a kid like this do, how far would he go to not be teased? This is a kid who’s trying to protect himself. We all have been in situations where we push ourselves to the limit to protect ourselves of the opinions and judgements of others. Dye our hair, gain weight, lose weight, hit the gym, all the things we do. We like to say it’s for us but most of the time it is to avoid the judgement from others.
LESEPUNKTE: You are basically saying that it is important to do things because you want them and not because you think others have to have a good view?
Jason Reynolds: Yeah, ask yourself what you want to do, live your life for you. There is nothing wrong with being self-assured, knowing who you are is who you are is enough. As long as it’s not damaging other people, it’s good enough.
LESEPUNKTE: That’s actually my favorite part of the book when Ghost has to clean the coach’s car and the coach says something like “you can’t run away from who you are, but you have to find out who you want to be”.
Jason Reynolds: Yeah, who do you want to be? I think that’s the most important thing in the whole book. You can’t run away from the past, you can’t run away from who you are. But you do have a choice, be who you decide to be. Who you choose to see yourself as in the future, what an incredible choice to make. I mean it’s a gift to know that if I want to I could be myself instead of running away from myself.
LESEPUNKTE: To get to know each other a little better Ghost, Patina, Sunny, Lu and their trainer share secrets with each other. Would you say that building a friendship works like that?
Jason Reynolds: Absolutely, secrets build intimacy. Intimacy builds relationship. That’s what we all want. It’s easier to trust a person when they give you a bit of themselves. Tell me who you are and I tell you who I am. It’s human. But if you don’t tell me who you are then I’ll be a little bit closer. It’s just that I can’t, we both have something at stake. Intimacy is how you build intimacy. And I think that’s the scene that shows they build a family, they bond themselves together at that table.
LESEPUNKTE: When reading ‘Ghost’ to kids what kind of questions do they ask?
Jason Reynolds: The questions they ask the most have nothing to do with the books. They ask about tattoos and all the things that are connected to me, which is what I like. I prefer it that way. Books are books, the books will be around, but this is an opportunity to talk to me. And you get to understand who it is that wrote this book. And I think that’s far more valuable than we talking about the book. I give you an opportunity for you all to share a moment, a book would be easier. And we all would be much more susceptible to read a book from a person who you liked in real life. We read their book, and we fight to like it. On the flipside, when we meet this author and we hate them, it is very difficult to read their book. That’s the way it works, so I have an opportunity to engage with the people and build relationships in an hour so that when I walk out of their door they will be curious enough to want to know more about me and feel that they can find out more about me if they read my books. They at least know that I’m honest and authentic, which means the books will probably be honest and authentic, too. And that’s all I care about.
LESEPUNKTE: Ghost uses colors to describe his emotions and it’s mostly red and black. What is your inner color?
Jason Reynolds: My color is probably blue, I think blue is often looked at as sad, but really it’s just calm. Like water. Blue represents, for me, calmness. And there is always a little sadness there, but it’s celebratory. I think it transports possibilities, I think it represents all the things that are unpredictable in our world like the sky.
LESEPUNKTE: Poetic words! I have asked all my questions. Is there anything left you want to say?
Jason Reynolds: All my books are love letters. To kids, their lifes, feelings and hopes. Young people are a gift to the world and all we can do is remind them of that as often as possible. My books are meant to do that, that’s all.
LESEPUNKTE: Thank you for those wise words, your time and openness.
Jason Reynolds: You are welcome!
Ihr wollt herausfinden, was damit gemeint ist, dass Jason Reynolds seine Bücher in einer ‘natural voice’ schreibt, welche Geheimnisse Ghost und seine Freunde aus der Laufmannschaft verbergen oder weshalb sie gerade das Laufen verbindet? Die Antworten auf diese Fragen findet ihr in den vier Büchern der ‘Track’-Reihe von Jason Reynolds…
Empfohlene ZitierweiseInterview mit Jason Reynolds (Jana Rüttgers). In: LESEPUNKTE 2019, URL: https://www.lesepunkte.de/interview/jugendbuchautor-jason-reynolds-ueber-seine-neue-buchreihe-geheimnisse-und-die-un-bequemlichkeit-des-laufens
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